Phillies' season of giving is year-round

November 22nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki's Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s Thanksgiving week, so here is a changeup from the Phillies Hot Stove talk.

Kevin Upshur beamed late last week, when Milt Thompson, Mickey Morandini and the Phillie Phanatic rolled up to the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center in Philadelphia in a new 12-person passenger van. Upshur opened the center in 2008, on the site of the former bar owned by his mother, Shirley. Before Shirley passed away, she told her son to do something with the building that was positive for the community.

“I’m just doing what my mom told me to do,” Upshur said.

Since the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center opened, it has provided after-school and summer programming for kids in grades 5-12. But Upshur always wanted more. He wanted to expand the opportunities and world for his kids. For more than a decade, he has tried to secure funding for a van so he can take his kids outside Strawberry Mansion to see the city and the East Coast.

It had been a fruitless pursuit. Folks had promised a van, then failed to deliver. Fundraising proved challenging. But Upshur kept trying.

Then the Phillies called.

They provided Upshur a van with funding from a $35,000 Phillies Charities grant, plus a $15,000 MLB grant as part of its Fall Classic Legacy initiative.

“It was a dream come true,” Upshur said. “It was very important because we didn’t know how we were going to get a van. We’ve been trying to figure out ways to make it happen. It was life-changing, a real game changer for the Learning Center. They heard about us, and they reached out. They called me before the end of the playoffs. They promised a van, and they came through.”

What would his mother think about this?

“When I look at her picture, I know she’d be happy,” Upshur said.

Strawberry Mansion has benefited because Upshur listened to his mom.

“That’s the thing,” he said. “I always did, I always did.”

The Phillie Phanatic recently visited the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, where the team donated a van.

This was one of many moments the Phillies spent with the community this year. A few highlights:

• Rob Thomson, Brandon Marsh and Phillies front office volunteers joined PAL volunteers and PAL kids for a service project at the 24th PAL Center in the Port Richmond in Philadelphia in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The work helped finish a new e-gaming room, created through the MLB Fall Classic Legacy Initiative.

• The 13th annual Phans Feeding Families campaign -- a hunger-relief partnership driven by the Phillies and sponsors to provide meals to people in need throughout the Delaware Valley. Aaron Nola has attended and supported the event for years.

• The 11th annual Phantastic Auction raised money to benefit Phillies Charities. Many players and coaches donated their time to auction off experiences, including a kids’ Wiffle ball party with Bryce Harper and catching, hitting and pitching lessons with J.T. Realmuto and Trea Turner, and Zack Wheeler, respectively.

• The Phillies and several players helped grant four wishes with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

• Alec Bohm matched donations and provided public service announcements for the annual Nemours Children’s Health Help Our Kids Radiothon.

• The Phillies honored the legacy of Lou Gehrig, as well as the work of ALS United Mid-Atlantic on Lou Gehrig Night.

• The Phillies hosted their sixth annual Childhood Cancer Awareness Night. Players stood on the basepaths as a young patient hit a ceremonial home run and circled the bases.

• Turner hosted young patients in his suite once a month to support the V Foundation.

• Nola hosted Bowling for the Troops in May, which benefitted Team Red, White & Blue.

• Rhys Hoskins hosted Go Yard with MDA and Rhys Hoskins in June, which benefited the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

• Taijuan Walker hosted Tai’s Taco Truck in August, which benefited Turning Points for Children.

• Kyle Schwarber hosted Schwarber’s Block Party in September, which benefited first responders via his Neighborhood Heroes program.