Crowdfunding sends Halifax boy to Pitch, Hit & Run sectionals
Jake Wamboldt may have fallen just shy of earning a spot at this weekend's Pitch, Hit & Run final at Rogers Centre, but his journey through the earlier stages of the competition provided him with baseball memories he'll never forget.
A trip to Ontario -- where he would compete against some of the best kids his age from Eastern Canada and have the opportunity to meet a pair of former Blue Jays -- was all a dream come true for the 8-year-old. But it almost didn't happen.
After winning his regional PHR final, the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native was ecstatic. His parents said they'd take him to the sectional tournament, assuming it would be within driving distance of their home near Halifax.
But when they learned Jake's sectional was to be held in Mississauga, Ontario, three provinces and an expensive plane ride away, they had to find a way to keep their promise.
"We assumed, wrongly, that the next stage would've been somewhere in Atlantic Canada," said Suzanne, Jake's mom. "We promised him the trip, and when they announced Ontario, it didn't make any difference to him. So we had to find a way to make it work."
They turned to crowdfunding in an attempt to raise the $2,000 necessary to send Jake to sectionals, launching an Indiegogo campaign with modest expectations. The response blew them away.
"In three days, 67.4 percent of his fundraising goal had been achieved," Suzanne said. "His goal was met by June 4. There were 748 visits to the Indiegogo site. Through social media, a local radio station heard of his goal and interviewed him before school one morning. That day, we had some donations from generous people in the community that heard him on the radio. He was supported by family and friends, local businesses, his baseball community and even his 8-year-old buddies. Two of his classmates took money out of their own piggy banks and gave it to him. This was an incredible show of support."
Although his finish at the Mississauga sectionals wasn't enough to earn him a berth in this weekend's final in Toronto, Jake was thrilled by the experience, which he capped off by meeting former Blue Jays Kelly Gruber and George Bell.
"A lot of people supported us, and that's really great," Jake said. "I was nervous. But I had a lot of fun and I'm already looking forward to trying again next year."
Suzanne said the whole experience gave the family a better understanding of the event and ways to improve it back in their home region. She said hopefully Atlantic Canada will one day get a sectionals of its own.
"That way we can get more boys and girls out and give them the opportunity to compete," she said.