The question was asked by a representative of a national health organization to which I had applied for funding for our elementary school baseball team, ‘What will we get for supporting these kids?’
I believe the answer to that representative’s question – and the result – has everything to do with the decision made this last Monday night, December 18, by the Gig Harbor City Council as to its support of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team coached these last 15 years by my brother, Alan Anderson.
The role I play in my community of which I am most proud is not unlike that of my brother, as we are both self-appointed ‘head cheerleader’ of those we most want to impact, the future of America, our youth.
One morning my brother and I were out rowing in a double. He’s a life-long kayaker, and me a rower, and I was trying to convert him. We didn’t get very far, primarily because we weren’t in all that good of shape but also because I swear we do more talking than rowing.
We’d no sooner got off the water than he checked his texts to see how the Gig Harbor youth were doing at Nationals in Georgia. (Alan had retired, he thought, from coaching and so was here on the water with me instead of standing on the dock in his usual spot at Nationals, cheering on his team).
They were winning. Not only were they winning but individual members were qualifying – in this sport of flatwater canoe and kayaking – to represent the United States.
To hear and see my brother recount the results just posted of kids he’d personally coached – and cajoled, and chastised, and prodded, and applauded over the years – his voice broke and there were tears in his eyes all accompanied by the widest of grins on his face.
Though light-years apart from what my brother Alan has accomplished in Gig Harbor, on a very small scale our baseball team – comprised of players from what many have described as ‘the poorest square mile in all of Pierce County’ – serves as an example of what can be accomplished when community and commitment are combined.
Every year the community – which understands the importance of boys playing ball – comes through in funding this team. Rallies are held at the school for the big game. Teachers attend and throw in the first pitch. From high-fives in the school hallways to city councilmembers in the stands, it’s our very own baseball version of “Friday Night Lights.”
I recently had opportunity to speak – for a whole two minutes – to The Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Policy Board (PSRC GMPB) which is planning for what they call Vision 2050, over 30 years from now.
For nearly the entire 120 seconds allotted to me in front of the microphone before this austere committee, I spoke about baseball.
Because in the year 2050, the current eleven-and-twelve-year-olds on our team will be 45. Chances are they’ll be married and have kids of their own. And given the memories of playing ball when they proudly wore the orange-and-black, my guess is they’ll be recreating those opportunities in whatever community they one-day find themselves.
So, as you plan, I concluded my presentation to the PSRC GMPB, “please keep these youth in mind.”
One of those boys scored the first ever homerun in Tillicum Crusher history simply because he never stopped running. To the national health organization, I wrote in the funding application: “you tell me what you think that memory means to this seven-year-old – let alone what he may have learned about life’s goals that can be accomplished when you refuse to quit, when you never stop running – and that’s what your contribution will do.”
That did it. They wanted to be a part of recreating those memories and wrote out a check.
The Gig Harbor City Council sent that same message to tomorrow’s Vision 2050 leaders through its support of the Gig Harbor team just days ago.
For the first time in 15 years, the youth paddlers will have a home of their own.
“The council’s decision was very emotional for Anderson,” wrote Danielle Chastaine, December 20, for Gateway News.
“‘When I started this program 15 years ago, my original mission was to support the kids of this community all the way to the Olympic level and to establish a home for future generations of Gig Harbor paddlers,’ he said. ‘This is how I serve the community, and I’ve been fortunate to share this mission with many wonderful kids and families over the years. I have great respect for the fishing and boat building history of this harbor, and I am glad the community saw fit to give Gig Harbor’s next generation the chance to make their own history.’”
What a testimony by my brother and a lesson to the kids pictured here.
Perseverance gets the job done whether it’s about a building, or about racing, or about life.