Each of the 12 teams participating in the Jr. RBI Classic tournament spent an hour at the university, packing nutritional meals that would be shipped to starving children in more than 60 countries. This is RBI's third year working with Kids Against Hunger, a nonprofit based in Minnesota; the organizations had collaborated the last two years at the RBI World Series.
"This is amazing. This is the largest event for our satellite location that we've ever done," said Meghan Touchet, satellite director for South Minneapolis. "This is a pretty amazing group of kids, and I know that they come from diverse backgrounds as well, and they probably have some of their own experience with hunger that they're bringing to the table, too. I would hope that something like this would help them feel empowered."
Before packing lunches, Touchet provided the group with sobering statistics about hunger, noting that one in seven people in the world go hungry every day, and that 40,000 kids aged 18 and under die every day from starvation. While many coaches had met with their teams earlier in the day to explain the importance of this event, the statistics helped enforce the importance of their volunteer work.
"We had a conversation this morning regarding this and the importance of this event, and how we're supporting kids and serving some youth that are unfortunately malnourished," said Matt Bergeron, coach of the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket RBI in Rhode Island. "The kids do grasp the magnitude of this event. I think it really hit home when we read the statistics regarding hunger. I think they're really starting to see the impact that this has."
The event was part of the community outreach that RBI provides each year as part of this event. The event lasted two hours, and with each hour, the group provided help for 30,000 people in need, according to Touchet.
The athletes worked diligently, organizing into assembly lines to fill the bags with a nutritional mix of soy, veggies and rice, making sure that each bag hit the target weight before then sealing them for shipping.
"We talked about it a little bit," said Donald Moore, a player for Durham Triple Play RBI. "We know we want to do something to help children."
That goal was achieved on Friday afternoon, as the RBI program helped the process of making its players "Major League citizens."
"I would say it's student-athletes first, teach kids respect, life lessons, as well as trying to get them into colleges and different stuff like that," said Tony Leak, Durham Triple Play RBI coach, of the program's goals. "Let them see there's life after high school. There's more to it than just playing sports."