A young man with a passion for baseball brings the game, the equipment, team spirit, and bubble blowing contests into the lives of kids who call an APAH Community home.
Several months ago, a young man learned about APAH through his exploration as a real estate investment professional. He first contacted our real estate development team to learn more about our work building, preserving, and operating affordable housing. Exploring further with an eye toward volunteering, he learned about the residents who live at our communities, and about our resident services programs. Because a stable home is just the first step to a productive and healthy life, APAH’s services provide additional support for residents, including programming for children. It was then that Nick Murray joined the APAH volunteer team and declared, “I want to offer a free baseball camp for kids who live at your communities.”
Nick has loved and played baseball since the age of 3. He played on rec teams and travel teams, and throughout high school he coached for Bethesda Chevy Chase (BCC) Baseball and Headfirst summer camps. He then he went off to Lafayette College and continued his baseball career. Now a working professional, this past year Nick returned to his high school alma mater, Landon High School, as assistant baseball coach. “This game means so much to me that even after I hung up the cleats, I couldn’t walk away from the diamond entirely. Growing up, I spent every summer going to various sports camps. Those camps will forever hold a special place in my heart for the memories and friendships they provided.” Knowing that camps can be expensive and tough on the family schedule, he wanted to offer a free camp for kids who might not have the opportunity to attend otherwise.
A Collaborative Volunteer Effort
Nick, who we now refer to as Coach Nick, went to work developing a weekly camp schedule, and he connected with the nonprofit organization called Leveling the Playing Field, from which he secured all the equipment and uniforms needed for each of the campers. He also recruited his brother Ryan, who was home from college for the summer, to be his assistant coach!
Supporting things on the creative and administrative side of camp planning was volunteer Julia Flynn who was working with us as part of her Washington-Lee Senior Experience. Julia was enthusiastic about the prospect of a summer sports camp for kids, having participated in many soccer camps herself as a young child. “For me, sports camps provided a perfect space to run around and let loose my energy. I also met a lot of friends throughout my time playing soccer and in camps, and we’re still very close because of our shared bond of playing the sport. I think physical activity and exercise in general makes people happier, and that’s something I experience daily when I exercise.”
The baseball camp also brought us David Moss, professional photographer and long-time philanthropist. He has been offering his photography services pro-bono for organizations such as Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, Friendship Place, Hemophilia Association of the Capital Area, Transitional Housing Corporation, and many more.
“When a neighbor who is involved with APAH mentioned the baseball camp, that sounded like a fun photo op. And it was! I had a great time working on this. It was challenging because, contrary to popular belief (or at least my opinion) that baseball suffers from a dearth of action, these kids were in non-stop motion. The coaches and volunteers were amazing. They really got the kids engaged, and I saw incredible progress in their baseball skills from week to week. And it was a joy to see and photograph the joy in the kids’ faces as they played, learned, and had fun on the field.”
Volunteers Katrina Ivatts and her son Miles, Jeff Harris, and Spencer Christensen rounded out the camp volunteer roster by offering on-site help during the camp sessions.
How did things turn out with this first-time APAH baseball camp? “Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before the camp started,” says Coach Nick. “Baseball can be a tough sport to fully engage in when you’re just starting out. I imagined the kids would have fun, but I was worried they would lose interest after a while.”
He continues, “The camp was AMAZING! We could not have scripted a better four weeks of camp. The kids were great – they were respectful, eager to learn, and had a blast playing the game that means so much to me.”
What did the kids and parents have to say? Here are a few quotes from the campers who now call themselves members of the team APAH Aces!
Q: What was your favorite part of camp?
A: “Pop up fly balls” “Batting” “Catching” “Scrimmage” “Running Bases”
Q: What did you learn from being on a team?
A: “Teamwork” “Sportsmanship” “To cheer and support others on the team”
Q: Would you want to do this camp again?
A: “Yes, yes, yes, for 2 years.” “Yeeees!!!!!” “Yes, bro!”
Q: Is your son enjoying camp?
A: “Yes he loves it and is sad that the camp is almost over. He asked me to put him in baseball instead of soccer/football, so I’ll be looking in to that now.”
Q: As a parent, what do you like about the camp?
A: “The introduction to baseball, it’s an outside activity, no phones…”
Coach Nick final thoughts at the end of the 4-week camp? “The volunteers who sacrificed their Saturday mornings were so helpful (and I think they had some fun too!). We truly could not have gotten this done without their help, and for that I am very thankful. The worst part of the camp was saying goodbye to all my campers and volunteers. They were the highlight of my summer and I hope we are able to continue this camp in the future.