ATLANTA -- When a lengthy flight delay in Toronto led the Braves to arrive at SunTrust Park around 6 a.m. ET on Thursday, Josh Donaldson told his teammates that he would understand if they were unable to attend his charity event scheduled to begin less than 12 hours later.
It would have been a tempting pass given the Braves had visited three cities and two time zones within six days. But as Freddie Freeman, Dallas Keuchel, Ozzie Albies and most of the other members of the active roster arrived at Bowlero Marietta early Thursday evening, they provided further indication of how much they have come to love and respect Donaldson.
“From the day he got here, he’s been the perfect piece of the puzzle,” Freeman said. “It’s pretty amazing the turnout he has after we got home at 6 a.m. He cares about us and we care about him. This is a family. We know this is something near and dear to his heart. We all wanted to show up because he means a lot to us.”
In association with the Braves Foundation, Donaldson welcomed a couple hundred fans to this event that provided a chance to interact and bowl with players and coaches.
Each of the charity bowling events that Donaldson had staged over the previous four years benefited the Boys & Girls Club. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to the newly created Josh Donaldson Foundation, which helps provide underprivileged children as well as youth from single-parent homes with opportunities to participate in activities that offer access to sports, mentorships and positive life experiences.
“It’s important because it’s something that directly impacted me throughout my childhood,” Donaldson said. “I know the struggles it takes for a single parent to provide. I played three sports growing up, so I know how difficult it was at times.”
Donaldson’s extremely challenging childhood has been well documented. His abusive father was sent to prison and his mother showed tremendous strength as she moved Josh from Florida to Alabama and did whatever necessary to make sure he could pursue his dream to become a professional athlete.
Fittingly, Josh’s mother, Lisa, was present on Thursday. Along with having a chance to participate in a charitable endeavor that hits close to home, she was able to see how much love and respect her son has garnered from the teammates and fans he gained this year in Atlanta.
“This is the first time we’ve done this for a foundation I’ve wanted to create for a while,” Donaldson said. “To see the support we have here, it means a lot.”