Ridgefield High athletes host donation drive to inspire love of sports in others

RIDGEFIELD — Will Hanna still uses the same Rawlings baseball glove he got for Christmas six years ago, when he was 10. And although he’s since outgrown it, the Ridgefield High School baseball player says it serves as a reminder of his passion for the game.

Hanna, 16, and his teammate Justin Keller, 17, hope to instill that same interest in sports in the next generation by continuing a donation drive started by a former RHS baseball player.

Through Sunday, Dec. 12, residents can drop off new sports equipment at two sites in town to benefit the Saint Joseph’s Parenting Center in Stamford. The donations will be given to struggling families to use as gifts for their children during the holiday season.

The drive was started by former Ridgefield High School student Johnny Briody, who now plays baseball at Tufts University. Hanna and Keller have played sports together since elementary school.

“(Briody) told us about it earlier this fall,” Hanna said. “It sounded like a great opportunity, so we wanted to jump on it.”

The teens have set up boxes near the front entrances of Tiger Sports (27 Catoonah St.) and the Ridgefield Recreation Center (195 Danbury Road), and are accepting donations. Pickup accommodations can also be made.

“We’re not looking for anything specific … as long as the equipment is new or as new as it possibly can be,” Keller said. “All of it is really appreciated and helping a really good cause.”

The Saint Joseph’s Parenting Center is a non-sectarian community resource center. Its mission is to strengthen families at risk of child abuse or neglect by providing parenting education and support, according to its website.

Keller acknowledged that since these families may not have the means to buy a glove or a basketball for their own children around the holidays, giving them an avenue to do so is the goal.

“We’ve seen how sports can evolve in our lives — it’s a critical part of who we are,” he explained. “Just by giving (a child) a piece of equipment, they’ll have that reminder that it’s something they enjoy, and can spark something going forward for the rest of their life.”

Keller recalled receiving a football for Christmas more than 10 years ago, which similarly sparked his interest in the sport. He now plays on the high school’s football team in addition to baseball and basketball, and plans to play sports in college.

Hanna believes the drive can demonstrate the positive impact sports can have on a child’s development. He added that parents would be able to choose which pieces of equipment they’ll take home to accommodate different children’s interests.

“So often the holiday season is associated with this type of joy and happiness, so why not create an outlet for sports?” he posed. “We’re so thankful to ... provide this to people during the holidays … and make it possible for them.”

For more information about the drive or to request accommodations for pickup, email willhanna2005@gmail.com or justinkeller8@icloud.com.