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Project LoMo encourages kids to create charities

Marlins outfielder inspired by meeting with 12-year-old Connor Goodman

Special to

MIAMI -- Twelve-year-old Connor Goodman and Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison first crossed paths at the inaugural FanFest at Marlins Park.

Goodman came prepared to meet the ballplayer, ready to pitch an idea he and the rest of his family had come up with to help others.

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Both Goodman and Morrison lost their fathers within a three-month span in late 2010. With Morrison's participation, Goodman created LoMo's MVP's, a program that invites families that have recently lost a parent to a Marlins game. Morrison spends time with them before the game, talking about some of the difficulties with losing a parent. Following their time with the Marlins outfielder, the families then share dinner with Goodman and his mother, Debbie.

"It helped me a lot because I'm a huge baseball fanatic, and to have a Major League player helping me with my project [is great]," said Goodman, who has welcomed seven families. "At first, [I thought], 'I can't do anything, I'm going to stay home,' but once you get out there and think of something -- if you believe it, you can achieve it."

Inspired by Goodman's story, Morrison decided to make a project about "inspiring kids to help their community out."

Around the same time, Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist who does charity work for educational and youth leadership foundations, sat through a White House briefing. Asked whether there were any athletes "remarkably committed to making the community better," a person affiliated with a sports agency mentioned Morrison and helped Dintersmith connect with him.

"It hasn't been done before," Dintersmith said. "The whole idea of having a Major League Baseball player help kids -- the reason they're here is to make the world better and not just play a sport."

Project LoMo -- in partnership with the American Lung Association -- came to fruition, encouraging youths to create their own charitable program to help the world become a better place. Throughout the summer, fans submitted an essay explaining the projects they created.

After sifting through the emails, Morrison and his agent chose the winners: Goodman, 10-year-old Jennifer Santos, 14-year-old Delilah Lubarsky, 15-year-old Dimitri Godur and 12-year-old Joshua Williams. Fifteen-year-old Sterling Dintersmith earned a special recognition.

Before Saturday night's game against the Rockies at Marlins Park, each kid received a T-shirt with his or her name on the back as well as a $1,000 check for his or her project. All five watched batting practice from the field and threw out ceremonial first pitches.

Morrison aspires to spread the program to other MLB cities, envisioning help from players like the Dodgers' Matt Kemp and the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki. More than $40,000 has been raised for the ALA (American Lung Association) through Project LoMo.

"Just kids helping kids and kids helping grownups and people in general," Morrison said. "It's a pretty special thing because like I said, a lot of kids don't think they can do any difference, nobody listens to them, they're just a kid. We're here to listen."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to

Miami Marlins, Logan Morrison