When former U.S. Army Delta Force Operator Josh Collins first stepped foot onto a stand-up paddleboard, he never imagined he was destined to embark on a 3,500 mile journey. The 20-year veteran received the paddleboard as a gift from his wife, Tonia, to act as a means of recreational therapy. For years, Josh has struggled with various Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, incurred over the span of his military career, and spent over three months hospitalized in the James A Haley VA Polytrauma Unit in Tampa, FL for sustained TBI therapy.
“Everything relating to balance – in my head, neck, ears, eyes – is messed up […] When I got on a paddleboard for the first time two years ago, the world stood still for the first time. It was like the lights coming on in a dark room after being in the dark for about ten years,” he says.
Josh is now on a mission to increase awareness and resourcing for veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD. On March 5th, he began a stand-up paddleboarding expedition from Corpus Christi, Texas to New York City in an effort to raise funds for the Task Force Dagger Foundation. Task Force Dagger Foundation is a nonprofit that supports U.S. Special Operations Command personnel and their families with needs that are not otherwise covered by the military or their insurance, such as recreational therapy to assist with the rehabilitation and recovery from injuries sustained while serving our country.
The Miami native took a break from paddling 35 miles each day to drop by Marlins Park this week. Check out what Josh had to say about his trip so far.
Saturday, April 16th marked the 28th annual Global Youth Service Day, the world’s largest service event and the only one dedicated to celebrating the contributions made by the youngest members of our society.
Marlins Ayudan partnered with HandsOn Miami and their Youth Advisory Council to conduct a series of beautification projects at Ludlam Trail, a 6.2-mile linear park through the heart of Miami-Dade County.
Over 200 volunteers came together to paint over a 600-foot, graffiti-covered wall as well as remove two dumpsters worth of illegally discarded trash and debris.
These projects were implemented in conjunction with Friends of Ludlam Trail and Green Mobility Network in the continued effort to transform the stretch of partially abandoned Florida East Coast railway into a safe, fully walkable pedestrian trail.
Additionally, HandsOn Miami’s Youth Advisory Council developed and led several “pop up” projects, including painting and assembling skateboards to be donated to children of military personnel in recognition of April being Military Child Appreciation Month, and making dog toys to be donated to local animal shelters.
It was unbelievably inspiring to witness individuals of all different ages and abilities come together to make a concrete impact in our community. Finding service opportunities that not only permit, but encourage youth participants to mobilize and be real agents of change is a rarity, and it was truly empowering to be a part of such an event.
Content contributed by Randy Rodriguez, Head Baseball Coach at Miami Carol City High School.
Coach Randy Rodriguez may not be a household name in the South Florida high school baseball scene. His team, the Carol City Chiefs, is not a perennial state championship contender. The program is also not a pipeline to major Division I college programs. Their home games are not littered with scouts holding radar guns and clipboards. In fact, at Miami Carol City High School there isn’t even a baseball field to host practices or home games.
In 2015, what the Carol City Chiefs baseball team did have was two returning players for the spring season: Ayeo Randolph and James Falmer. Although Ayeo, a 5’5″ 140lb outfielder, had finished the 2014 season hitless, he was committed to reinventing his swing and pursuing his dream of playing college baseball. While Ayeo’s mother, an All-Conference MEAC softball player at Florida A&M University, was the first person to teach him the game, the baton was soon passed to Coach Randy to help Ayeo take his game to the next level. By the end of last spring, Ayeo’s game had improved immensely and he motivated his teammates to join him in participating in the Marlins Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) summer program and work towards building something special in Miami Gardens. They were able to field a team led by Coach Randy and while the team finished the RBI Season 0-10, they never wavered in their commitment to show up to every game, play hard, and focus on getting better every inning of every game.
James Falmer was one of those players who was motivated to continue playing over the summer. Falmer may not have had the opportunity to participate in the Marlins RBI program had it not been for Ayeo’s persistence. Despite being a junior at Carol City, 2015 was James’ first year playing baseball and he started the spring season on the JV Team. He would ride his bike to school, practice at an offsite baseball training facility in Miami Gardens, and then travel back home on a daily basis. James’ swing quickly developed, leading to an early promotion to the Varsity Team where he would finish the season as the team’s batting champion, hitting .294. In addition to the on-field success, James spent late nights at the baseball facility completing his homework where he was able to access the Internet. Despite these obstacles, James dreams of one day earning his degree in sports administration and working for a professional sports franchise.
On January 30, 2016, Ayeobele “Ayeo” Randolph and James Falmer will sign letters of intent to play baseball at Morris College, becoming the first Carol City High School baseball players to do so in 10 years. Congratulations to Ayeo, James and Coach Randy!
I’ve witnessed Giancarlo Stanton do some incredible things during his time with the Miami Marlins, but his most impressive display took place a few days ago. It wasn’t a 500-foot home run or a diving catch on the warning track, and it didn’t make SportsCenter’s top plays.
Earlier this month, Big G changed the lives of over 60 kids who had been pre-screened at Lenora B. Smith Elementary and identified as needing intense dental work. Giancarlo spent time with every single child who sat in one of the chairs at Spodak Dental from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Whether it was a little girl who was scared or a young man who was recovering from having his teeth extracted, Giancarlo was there with almost a superhero-like presence to make them feel better.
At the end of the day, $50,000 worth of dental care was provided to children who, in some cases, had never seen the inside of a dentist’s office. It was most unbelievable to hear some kids say it was the best day ever; a trip to the dentist was the best day in some of these kids’ lives.
Thank you, Giancarlo, for having Marlins Ayudan join you in making a difference this offseason.
Great baseball player. But better man.
You know Dee Gordon as “The Flash.” He steals bases regularly, gets a hit seemingly every night, and never fails to cap off a big win with the perfect dunk. What you might not have seen as much, though, is the other side of Dee… off the field.
His contributions to the community this year have been tremendous — and they haven’t gone unnoticed. Dee was the Marlins nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, going to a player in each league who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
Scroll down to see just 10 of the many times this year Dee made a difference:
10 – Marlins Ayudan Week
During Ayudan Week in February, Dee spent a day visiting little leaguers at Miami Carol City Park, where he shared baseball tips and gave advice to the young aspiring athletes.
9 – Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities
Dee also teamed up with former Marlin Cliff Floyd to coach a Marlins RBI baseball game during Ayudan Week. We’re not sure who had a better time: Dee and Cliff or the kids.
8 – Parkinson’s
Back in April, Dee joined forces with Blechman Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to promote awareness and raise money. Dee’s goal? Stealing as many bases as he could that month. All funds raised during the “stolen base challenge” — called Dee-Feat Parkinson’s Disease — went directly towards Parkinson’s research. You can read more about Dee’s efforts here.
7 – Military Appreciation
In honor of Military Appreciation Day in May, Dee and his teammates spent the afternoon with veterans at the Honda Classic. Based on their smiles, it’s obvious the day was one to remember.
6 – More RBI
In May, Marlins RBI athletes participated in a youth baseball clinic with the second baseman, where they learned hitting and fielding techniques. Getting advice from a batting champion and potential Gold Glover? Priceless.
5 – Math Wiz
Dee visited students at Lenora B. Smith Elementary School in June, where he even helped teach a math class!
4 – Friendly at Second Base
During select games, young Fish fans are given the opportunity to be a “Grounds Crew for a Day.” Each time, without fail, Dee took it upon himself to greet the children who came his way, giving them a “high-five” and — if they were lucky — their very own baseball.
3 – Good Dude
After an elderly fan was left started by a foul ball off his bat last month, Dee went above and beyond to remedy the situation. He ran over to the 93-year-old as soon as the inning ended and spoke with her to ensure she was okay. Shortly thereafter, Dee returned — this time with the gift of a bat and baseball. You can read more about about the touching moment here.
2 – Day made.
Just a few days later, another ball hit off Dee’s bat nearly struck a young fan. Without hesitation, Dee collected one of his bats, signed it — with an apology! — and gave it to the boy. Day made.
1 – Flash of Hope
Dee’s “Flash of Hope” is a program designed to help children who have lost a parent from domestic violence. Once per month during the season, Dee is paired with a child who lost a parent. He gives them the VIP treatment, taking them inside the clubhouse, introducing them to his teammates, and even spending time together on the field during batting practice. Next year, Dee hopes to expand the program even further.
With all of that said, it’s a no-brainer Dee Gordon has made an incredible difference in the community this year.
UPDATE: How could we forget about the day Dee took a young Fish fan suffering from leukemia under his wing? Watch the unforgettable day unfold here: