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Photo courtesy Ralph Rodriguez
Photo courtesy Ralph Rodriguez
Cleats 4 Kids raised $9K during an annual LIC fundraiser to ship baseball equipment to children in the Dominican Republic.

More than $9,000 was raised for nonprofit Cleats 4 Kids during the 5th annual Dominican Gala at Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City Saturday.

Cleats 4 Kids, which collects baseball equipment for disadvantaged children in the Dominican Republic, plans to use the money to cover shipping costs. The fundraiser featured dancing, live music and raffles.

Matt Rodriguez, 19, the organization’s founder, started Cleats 4 Kids when he was 8-years-old after seeing children in the Dominican Republic playing baseball without shoes and gloves. He said the event is a testament to the growth of the organization.

“Seeing what it came from, from when I was in middle school to how it is now, it’s ridiculous,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have to throw parties to fund to ship the equipment out there. I didn’t even think in a million years we’d get enough equipment to even do that.”

Eleven years ago as a young baseball fan, Rodriguez asked his parents, Ralph and Shirley, to donate his cleats, gloves and other equipment. That kicked off the organization with full support from his parents, who were both born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Jackson Heights.

The gala was not only attended by friends and family of the organization, but also by those who donate equipment. Many of them have a shared interest for donating the gear because they hate to see children suffer to play baseball.

“Kids climb trees to get the right limb or branch for a bat, using cardboard for gloves, taking rocks with tape and socks for balls,” said David Fantin, founder of Global Sports Foundation, who flew in from Texas for the event. “When you see kids improvise, because they love to play the game, you have to help them.”

One of the major donors to Cleat 4 Kids is Beechhurst native Scott Green, president of adult baseball league, Play for the Plate.

Green was given an award from the Rodriguez family for nearly a decade of donations to youth baseball players. But to Green just a thank you would be enough.

“My dream would be somewhere down the line, if one of these kids made it to the major leagues and just said thanks to Cleats 4 Kids for giving me my first glove,” Green said. “I would be in heaven.”

 

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