Ten years ago, I began collecting baseball equipment for the children of the Dominican Republic. My greatest ally through this has been mi dear friend Rodney Brunlinger. Recently, he ran across this account of preparation for our trip. It seems fitting to share it with you now—-
From Humboldt to El Limón (No Problema)
As I unloaded my bags at the airport preparing for my fourth trip to the Dominican Republic in 30 months, my biggest concern was the weight of my bags filled with baseball equipment for the children of El Limón. Every year they are overweight and they must be pared down to 50 pounds. This year my bags came it at a near perfect 50 and 47.5 pounds.
This year my host family would be the Ozuna family. In the Dominican Republic they don’t just host you, they adopt you. It’s part of what Dave Silverbrand calls “the love which flows from them like water.” And it rains year round.
It was not the usual “take stuff, check in on what successfully arrived and present to the children on Cleats for Kids Day, on the second Saturday of every December”. Dave has been doing this for eight years now. This was a scaled down delivery and to work with Dave’s counterpart in the Dominican Republic, Onfalia Morillo, on some hurdles which cropped up in the past 12 months. While meeting with her, I discovered that more hurdles had popped up than we were aware of. But as John Lennon once said, “there’s no problem, only solutions.”
In April 2009, we sent 89 boxes through our Northcoast partners, Fed Ex, and then another partner in Boston would forward them to the Dominican Republic, all free. But the great recession was taking its toll. In May, Dave was informed that corporate headquarters of Fed Ex had put the kybosh on gratis shipping out of Humboldt County. That was the jab. The right hook came in June. The agency in the Northeast had lost its funding also and the donations from the people of Humboldt County were temporarily stranded.
Onfalia directed us to send out July shipment to Florida. Fed Ex gave us the best deal they could and another 30 boxes were off, no problem.
While in the Dominican Republic this July, I received very good news. The 89 boxes had finally arrived. But this was not the only news Onfalia had. Some new really big hurdles were popping up Every box needed a much more detailed manifest than we had been using and the word “donation” must be prominent on every box in English and Spanish.
Additionally, regarding medical supplies we had been collecting for the clinic in El Limón, there are a host of restrictions on medicine so best not to send them in the future.
Stethoscopes and such are okay. But electrical devices which are used, like the X-ray machine donated recently by a doctor in Fortuna, are prohibited. This puts a pinch on my dream to get the X-ray machine and a sonogram/ultrasound machine for El Limón. Dr. Denny Wilson had listed these along with general medical supplies and an ambulance when Dave and I visited the clinic in December of ’09.
There were other hurdles in export taxes for the U.S. Government, import taxes for the Dominican Government, and daily storage fees at the port while a tax waiver was pursued and while the Dominican government explored all 89 boxes to see exactly what the people of Humboldt were donating to the people of El Limón. No problema. Onfalia’s friend and attorney was working round the clock to clear these hurdles.
After a meeting with Onfalia in the capital of Santo Domingo, the Ozuna family left for El Limón with a trunk load of baseball equipment for the children and 40 blankets for the newborns sewn by my mom (a one year supply).
On the way, we stopped at my favorite bodega for lunch. While the food was being prepared, I thought it would be refreshing to take a dip in the stream-fed pool-like pond with 20 or 30 local young people and kids. But they know many things I do not. I stepped on a slippery rock. Whoosh! Down I went.
I tried to pop up quickly, mortified with embarrassment. When falling I had tried to catch myself with my right hand but when I looked at it, my index finger was pointing in a different direction than I was accustomed, beginning at the middle knuckle. My friends were visibly upset at the sight so I broke the ice saying “No problema.”
They weren’t buying it so off we were to the health clinic of El Limón. It took only a minute or two to be in a room with the doctor. They don’t have an x-ray machine so the doctor put on a finger splint and referred me to the hospital in Las Terrenes, 30 minutes away via a road rougher than the roads in rural Humboldt.
The same road locals traverse in the back of a pick-up truck after motorcycle accidents and other serious injuries (In El Limón, scooters and motorcycles outnumber cars 10 to one.) Upon arrival at the hospital in Las Terrenas, a nurse performed triage evaluation and in minutes my hand was being x-rayed by a machine at least 25 years old. In less than an hour, I left in a cast with a five-day supply of inflammatory to reduce the swelling.
For all this I paid a non-mandatory co-payment of about $30. Only doctors and nurses work at the hospital and there is no paperwork, not even a request for an I.D. The only thing they knew about me was my name is Rodney and I need their help. The co-pay was after treatment.
I too have a dream and it is lofty. Somehow I will-somehow we will-let our love flow through us like water all the way to the Little League ball field and health clinic of El Limón.
This week, Dave and I will go to Redwood Capital Bank, ProSports, the Outdoor Store, and Murphy’s Market in Sunny Brae to pick up more of your donations, so please keep them coming. If it were not for Dave Silverbrand’s love for the children of El Limón and your generous donations, I would never have had the opportunity for these rewarding experiences, nor the chance to wear an authentic Dominican cast.
(Rodney Brunlinger is a volunteer with Dave Silverbrand’s Cleats for Kids and always considers himself to be “the luckiest man alive.”) www.cleats4kids.net.