Noah Driskell, the 7 ½ year old son of Grain Valley High School baseball coach Brian Driskell, was having so much fun, he didn’t even know he was working.
The same could be said for the 38 members of the Eagles baseball team, as they participated in the sixth annual Grain Valley Community Service Day last weekend.
“This is fun,” said Noah, who stressed that he was 7 ½ and not just 7 years old. “I get to come out and be with my dad and the players. That’s so cool.”
The Eagles within earshot, smile and nod in agreement.
“I remember the first one of these I was involved with,” said senior second baseman Tate Collum. “We were like, ‘It’s Saturday morning and we could be sleeping in.’ Then we all got together and had a great time.”
“I can’t believe this is the last time I get to come out in the community and help people with the guys on the team. It’s become one of the most special days of the season.”
He paused for a moment, looked at Noah, and added, “And it’s fun to work with Noah.”
The Community Service Day began with former Eagles coach Mark Lyford, who is now the activities director for all Grain Valley middle schools. Driskell has been a part of the past five, with four coming as the head coach.
“We’re so lucky to be in a great community like Grain Valley, where we get so much support from the community, and this is our way of giving back,” Driskell said. “It’s a day all the guys look forward to, especially Noah, because he gets to come out and work right alongside all the players he admires and looks up.”
Noah isn’t the only one who admires the Eagles.
Half the team spent most of Saturday morning stomping on cans and collecting pull tabs off the top of those cans as part of a money-making project for longtime Grain Valley resident Nancy Totten.
Last year, Totten donated 28 large, cat litter containers full of ring tabs that raised $460 to buy Christmas presents for children in Grain Valley. The cans go to support Ronald McDonald House, where families can stay while young cancer patients undergo treatment.
“What these young men did this morning would have taken me two to three months,” said Totten, who handed out candy to the players when they were finished. “For these kids and the parents to come out and give back to people like me is special. I just hope they know how special they are and how special this community service day is to everyone they help.”
While one group of Eagles raked leaves, another worked smashing the cans and collecting the pull tabs. Yet another group could be found south of town, clearing debris off some land hit by last year’s tornado.
“The best thing about today is the way the team bonds when we do this work,” freshman Parker Stone said. “We get to help out families by raking and doing things like that, then we get to help kids get Christmas presents by smashing these cans. This is the first time I’ve got to to this since I’m just a freshman and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year, too.”
So is sophomore Josh Kilpatrick, who worked alongside his dad Jay, a Grain Valley teacher.
“Seeing (Totten’s) happiness this morning is priceless,” Kilpatrick said. “Last year, we raked up probably 50 or 60 bags of leaves, and we’ll do that many this year, too. And next year, who knows? We want to go out into the community and make the type of impact our fans make when they come watch us play.”
“This is our small way to pay them back.”
That sentiment is shared by his teammates.
“We got up at 8 and went to the high school for breakfast and everyone was so excited,” sophomore Koby Powell said. “Coach Driskell is really big about giving back to the community and thanking the community for supporting us and this is a cool way to give back.
“Whether we’re crushing cans or raking or anything else, we get kind of competitive and it’s a good way for our chemistry to build and for our team to bond because we have everyone out here from C team to varsity. It’s just a great way to spend a Saturday. When it’s over, you feel good about yourself and everyone we helped feel good, too.”