A sacrifice hit is a critical component to winning on the softball diamond.
The University of Toledo softball team is showing that it knows how to make sacrifices off the field as well.
The 22 players and three coaches take time out of their Friday mornings to volunteer at Apple Tree Nursery School on Main Campus. Children vary in age from infants to preschoolers, and it’s been a rewarding experience for both them and the team.
“At first, the kids were shy,” said senior utility player Lacey LeVier. “But once you’re around them for a few minutes, it wears off. They’re throwing balls at you, laughing, playing, giving things to you and telling you to pick them up. It makes you feel like you’re making a difference in their lives.”
“[The team] came on the playgrounds the first day and provided a tremendous amount of energy,” said Sherry Roush, Apple Tree director. “They were ready to run and play, and the children just loved it.”
The idea to volunteer at Apple Tree came from first-year Head Coach Tarrah Beyster, who approached Roush about it several weeks ago. Roush admitted to being overwhelmed at first with the prospect of having 25 volunteers, but it was something she wanted to try.
“It was a good overwhelmed because I have so many people that I don’t know what to do with them,” Roush said. “I want it to be a positive experience for everyone. Right now I’m enjoying the fact I can share them with the children.
“We want to show the children all of the choices they have in life. By turning on the television, they know men can be athletes, but they may not know women can be athletes, too,” Roush continued. “That’s what I really like about having the softball team coming. They identify themselves as athletes.”
The team was more than eager to participate in the program. The first week involved time on the playground, with kids chasing players and players chasing kids. With the weather starting to turn, activities have shifted indoors. The team splits up to work with the different age groups, taking turns reading to the kids, building blocks and painting.
“Giving our time to make the little kids happy — this is something they remember and enjoy,” said junior pitcher Trisha Rons. “It’s a great place and what they have going here is really special.”
“Everyone is so excited that we’re doing this,” LeVier added. “Most girls love babies. It’s exciting to work with the kids and cute to see them laughing and playing. I’ve seen this place so many times, and I always wondered what it took to work or help out here. It’s a good opportunity to have the whole team here, give back to the community, and help shape the kids’ future.”
Apple Tree Nursery School has been awarded a three-star rating by the state of Ohio and is accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs.