The following is an excerpt from the introduction of the upcoming Home Run On Wheels book.
What began as a bucket-list trip turned into something so much more. My wife Patti and I never set out to do anything magnanimous or philanthropic. We initially just wanted to take advantage of being able to work remotely by traveling in an RV to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums during a single season.
A dinner on July 28, 2017, changed everything and our journey suddenly had a mission. Things were set into motion two months earlier when Patti began a new job with a bank that was 100-percent remote. Then one July afternoon, she stepped out of the office at our home in Charlotte and said, “You know, I could do this anywhere.”
We started to kick around travel ideas and a baseball trip came up. It didn’t take very long before we just said, “Why not? Let’s do it. We’ll get an RV and go.”
The proverbial wheels were starting to roll. We recorded and watched “Going RV” on the DIY Network to get ideas of what we wanted in an RV. Neither of us had ever owned or driven an RV before, and the show was the first step in our research process. We also read quite a bit online and began to formulate some ideas of features and layouts we desired. Patti, ever the project manager, created a spreadsheet ranking must-have and nice-to-have elements.
It wasn’t until February that we purchased our RV and, by then we had partnered with Children’s Hope Alliance – a foster care advocacy organization in North Carolina. That partnership was spawned during the aforementioned dinner.
After moving from St. Louis to Charlotte in December of 2014, Patti joined a gym and met a woman named Celeste Dominguez. The two bonded during their workouts and quickly became friends. Celeste was an executive with Children’s Hope Alliance and traveled quite a bit with her job. The summer of 2018 was unusually busy for her, roving in-state to fundraising events and out of state to conferences. She also made time to visit her two college-aged children. Her travel schedule slowed down by late July and she reached out to ask us if we wanted to join her for dinner.
We set a date – the day after my birthday – and met at a Cajun place near the Concord Mills Mall north of Charlotte. I joked that I had two dates for a birthday dinner. This was simply meeting with a friend to catch up. But when Celeste asked if anything was new, that dinner became the foundation of our 2018 plans. We told Celeste of our intent to buy an RV and travel to all 30 MLB stadiums.
The lightbulb went on.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we could take a kid to a game,” Patti said, half-jokingly.
“What if you could take multiple kids to games?” Celeste responded.
What followed was about a 30-minute conversation about how that might work. Children’s Hope Alliance operates solely in North Carolina, where there are no Major League Baseball teams. Patti and I also did not know what the legalities were of trying to get kids to games and we weren’t even sure how to go about requesting tickets from teams. These were all questions to which we eventually found answers over the next few months.
After dinner, Celeste said she would run our idea past the Children’s Hope Alliance board. Another event occurred a month later that helped the plan come to fruition. Celeste got promoted to chief executive officer of Children’s Hope Alliance. Now we felt confident things were going to happen and we’d be able to get children to professional baseball games.
“It’s an experience that most of our children here don’t have,” Celeste told us as we discussed our mission before we left. “They can’t afford them; they don’t have access to them. It’s a treat that they just don’t get to experience unless somebody helps them get there.”
“That is exactly what we are trying to do,” I replied.
By the time we completed our trip in September of 2018, we had acquired 220 total tickets for games at six different MLB stadiums – and 80 from two minor-league clubs – for foster families to join us at some baseball games. We wish we could have done more, but that was never the mission Celeste laid out for us. Getting kids to a game was a bonus. Her primary objective for us was to drive around a giant Children’s Hope Alliance “billboard” to get people talking about foster care.
“Our heart is getting the word out about children,” she told us. “Every state you’re going to be in; every city center that you’re going to be in; there are agencies like ours that serve and support children that have needs and have experienced trauma – trauma like abuse or neglect, or some sort of life experience that has just really hurt them. In every one of these towns, people can volunteer. They can help with this initiative by just bringing awareness by helping with the tickets, helping to celebrate what we’re doing, helping to pass the word. Putting us on their Facebook page or Instagram. Taking a picture of your RV as you’re traveling by and helping us get the word out.”