Dave Wood says he’ll never forget the tearful message his 14-year-old son, Shane, delivered when the pair reunited after fleeing from separate homes in October’s firestorm.
“The first thing he said when I saw him was ‘Dad, I lost all my baseball gear,’ ” said Wood, a board member for the Mark West Youth Club Little League. “We just got new gear. It was all in the garage.”
Wood lost his Larkfield-Wikiup home, and Shane’s mother’s Mark West home also was destroyed. Shane had been with his mother the night of the fire, and the trio reunited in Windsor the afternoon of Oct. 9.
While the loss of equipment, years of trophies, jerseys and other irreplaceable memorabilia was devastating for the family, the pain was dulled by an outpouring of support. Professional baseball teams including the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants, along with community members, mobilized within weeks, showering players with donations of money and gear, said Kevin Wood, president of the league’s board of directors.
A quarter of the league’s players — 110 kids — lost homes and gear in the October fires, along with a dozen coaches, said Kevin Wood. As donations flooded in, the league amassed equipment for about 500 players and as much as $40,000 in monetary donations, he said.
“From everywhere up and down the U.S. and all the way across the U.S., we had donations coming in,” Wood said. “We had an email come in from New Zealand saying ‘Hey, our prayers and support are with you.’ It was amazing.”
After gear was given to the league’s players and others in need, there was still enough left to outfit about 300 kids, Kevin Wood said.
When he heard of Redding’s devastating Carr fire, he emailed the West Redding Little League to offer equipment to replace what their teams lost in the inferno.
Nicole Martin, the event coordinator for the Redding league’s board of directors, said she was touched to receive the message.
“I know it hasn’t even been year for Santa Rosa,” said Martin, 34, who returned to her home after evacuating for five days. “It’s just so fresh. The fact that they’re willing to reach out to us in the midst of it just brings tears to my eyes … It’s really heartwarming. Once you go through it, you just want to help out other people who are also going through it.”
As the Carr fire is still burning, it’s not clear how many players and coaches lost homes, or what replacement equipment will be needed, she said. More than 1,000 homes have been lost in the blaze and another 190 damaged, according to Cal Fire.
Kevin Wood issued a call for help to his league to sort and store the leftover gear to await the call from Redding. On their last free weekend before school begins, about 50 parents and their players gathered Saturday morning at Mark West Elementary School to organize the donations.
Among them were Dave and Shane Wood, who seized the opportunity help others suffering in the same way they did just 10 months ago.
“(I wanted) to pay it forward … and teach Shane about volunteering and giving back,” Dave Wood said.
Members of the Hand-Picked Baseball Club, a Santa Rosa travel team whose members also lost homes in the fire, were also on hand to assist with organizing the equipment, including stacks of baseball bats, bags stuffed with helmets, bins of baseballs and heaps of cleats.