I love to tell the stories of how individuals can make a difference, using the skills they have in the place they are.
I recently heard the story of Holden Wilder, who could not attend a youth mission trip with his school as he needed to participate in weekend baseball games. Instead he took a short trip to Holy Cross and donated supplies. But he didn’t stop there – he wanted to do more, so held a wiffle ball tournament to raise funds for the school.
If you’re interested in participating in next year’s wiffle ball tournament, it will be held in the early fall.
The full story, below, was originally published in the Forsyth County News here and is republished below, with permission from the author.
Local teen plans, hold fundraiser to support students in Belize
Wiffle ball tournament held at Joint Venture Park at Daves Creek [in Forsyth County, Georgia]
By Isabel Hughes
On a sunny Sunday afternoon when most other 14-year-old boys would be mowing the grass to make a little extra spending money, Holden Wilder was running the inaugural Wilder Wiffle Ball Classic.
The Classic, a fundraiser for the Holy Cross Anglican School in San Mateo, Belize, was held Sunday, Aug. 7 at Forsyth County’s Joint Venture Park at Daves Creek.
The event was planned and put on by Wilder, a Forsyth County resident and incoming freshman at the Wesleyan School.
Wilder’s story begins nearly six months ago with a missed opportunity to participate in Wesleyan’s eighth-grade mission trip.
The school’s annual trip was planned for the first week in April, but, an avid baseball player, Wilder’s travel team was also scheduled to play the first few weekends of the month. Although his team didn’t have any mid-week games, Wesleyan’s trip would stretch over both weekends, preventing Wilder from playing, unless he chose to stay home.
After discussing with his parents and grandparents, the family made a compromise: They would go to Belize for four days during the week so Wilder could be at home on the weekends for baseball. However, while in Belize, the family would also participate in some form of community service to make up for Wilder’s missed mission trip.
That community service would be at the Holy Cross Anglican School.
The school, which educates students from preschool through eighth grade, is located in one of Belize’s poorest neighborhoods, San Mateo, which, “at one time won the dubious honor of being recognized as the most at risk community in all of Belize by the Red Cross,” the school’s website says.
It educates about 440 students in total, but also offers school supplies, clothing, toys and scholarships to children in need, which requires the school to rely largely on donations of supplies and money.
“We decided we were going to bring some bags of toys and school supplies, some soccer jerseys and soccer balls,” Wilder said.
But Wilder — although he’d never met the children — thought he could do more.
“I made a lot of money off selling my old clothes on eBay,” he said. “So we were like, ‘I’ll just sponsor a kid for a year.’”
For $450, the cost to sponsor a child for one year, the school not only educates and provides the student with textbooks, but also feeds him or her two hot meals per day and offers dental care.
With check in hand, Wilder and his family made the trip to Central America and to the school, where Wilder immediately fell in love.
“The school [itself] is not very nice, but what they’re doing for these kids and what they’re doing for the high schoolers is just wonderful,” he said. “They took us around, into classrooms and to meet the kids and all of the people were super, super sweet. They were doing everything for the right reasons and we kind of fell in love with the place.”
Wilder could tell the school wasn’t well funded though, so after just one visit, he and his family set out to help.
“I was really interested in raising money for the school, but I didn’t actually know how,” Wilder said. “So we were thinking about things I like to do but could also act as a fundraiser, and my aunt said we should have a wiffle ball tournament.”
Wilder jumped at the idea; it would combine an old passion of his — baseball — and a new passion — aiding the school.
“Our family loves to play wiffle ball. We all love baseball, and so I was like ‘Yeah, that’s a really, really good idea.’” Wilder said. “[I thought] it would be an easy venue [to get], it would be easy to put stuff around the fields we were going to use. It would be really compact, and it just really made sense to have a wiffle ball tournament.”
With help from family and friends, as well as Forsyth County parks and recreation, Wilder secured Joint Venture Park and began planning the event.
“It was hard getting the teams set up, but overall, the project went really smoothly,” Wilder said. “I had a lot of people — a lot of my close friends and family — help, but the teams and the brackets and all that was [set up] by me.”
Despite the long hours of planning, calling catering companies and organizing the event, Wilder wants to hold the event again.
“I had a lot of people tell me how great the idea was and if I did it again, how they would totally come out and support [the school],” he said. “I think if I do another year, I’ll have an even bigger turnout, which would be absolutely phenomenal.”
Still, Wilder estimates about 120 people came to the tournament, raising more than $2,000 for the school. With this money, he’ll be able to sponsor four to five children for the next year — and hopefully visit them on his next trip to Belize.
“We’re still deciding whether we’re going to take [the money] to them or if we’re going send them a check with the money we raised,” Wilder said. “But hopefully we will go back.”