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!
Thursday, November 19th was South Florida’s biggest annual giving event: Give Miami Day, a 24-hour philanthropic give-a-thon that supports local nonprofit organizations. It was also the 6th annual Marlins Ayudan Day of Service and Philanthropy.
This is no coincidence. For the past 2 years, Marlins Park has been Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day headquarters. On this special day of giving, Marlins Ayudan partners with nine different organizations, all of which are Give Miami Day non-profits. The idea is to leverage this partnership to raise more awareness and funds for selected organizations while performing impactful service projects in the community for all to enjoy.
Figure 2: Marlins Ayudan Blue Shirts supporting Give Miami Day
This is how the Marlins Ayudan Day of Service and Philanthropy works: each of the nine partner organizations represents a team or service squad. Each squad is named in honor of one of Jackie Robinson’s Nine Values. These values helped guide Jackie as he overcame a multitude of obstacles on his journey to breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Figure 3: Marlins Ayudan Blue Shirts display Jackie Robinson’s Nine Values: Commitment, Determination, Teamwork, Integrity, Excellence, Persistence, Citizenship, Justice, and Courage
Marlins Ayudan Blue Shirts select which organization they’d like to champion. Once teams are formed, they carry out two missions: (1) to work closely with their partner organization to design and implement a philanthropic plan to execute on Give Miami Day, and (2) to participate in a service project with partner organization led by a HandsOn Miami project leader.
Figure 4: Marlins Ayudan leadership presenting Darrill Gaschler of HandsOn Miami, the official 2015-2016 service partner of Marlins Ayudan, with a $10,000 donation
Figure 5: Team Teamwork executing their philanthropic plan
The nine benefiting non-profit partners this year were HandsOn Miami, Million Trees Miami, Special Olympics of Miami-Dade County, Up2Us Sports, Young At Art Museum, Humane Society of Greater Miami, Miami Rescue Mission, Read to Learn, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Figure 6: Team Justice at Miami Rescue Mission
Figure 7: Team Determination at Kensington Park Elementary, a Marlins Ayudan partner school, with Up2Us Sports
Teams carried out various types of service projects throughout Miami-Dade which included: a mural painting at Pepper Park, a meal packing with Miami Meals of Hope at Miami Senior High, invasive plant species removal at Greynolds Park, beautification at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, fun fitness and healthy eating with Special Olympics athletes at the Marian Center, “Play Ball” field day at Kensington Park Elementary, animal socialization at the Humane Society of Greater Miami, meal serving and holiday decorating at Miami Rescue Mission, and book sorting and shelving at the Miami Book Fair.
Figure 8: Team Excellence at Pepper Park, a Marlins RBI partner park, with Young At Art
Figure 9: Team Teamwork at Miami Senior High, a Marlins Ayudan partner school, with “littles” of Big Brothers Big Sisters
Figure 10: Team Commitment at Greynolds Park with Million Trees Miami
Figure 11: Team Commitment at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens with HandsOn Miami
Figure 12: Team Courage at the Marian Center with Special Olympics of Miami-Dade County
Figure 13: Team Determination at Kensington Park Elementary, a Marlins Ayudan partner school, with Up2Us Sports
Figure 14: Team Integrity at the Humane Society of Greater Miami
Figure 15: Team Justice at Miami Rescue Mission
Figure 16: Team Persistence at Miami Book Fair with Read to Learn
Marlins Ayudan teams contributed to over $133,000 of the $184,148 collectively raised by all partner non-profit organizations. Team Justice raised the most funds for their partner, Miami Rescue Mission, a whopping $92,479! Overall, Give Miami Day collected more than $7.1 million dollars for over 600 local non-profit organizations. That’s what I call impact!
For more action from the Marlins Ayudan Day of Service and Philanthropy, scroll down:
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.