Harlem RBI’s beginnings are traced to volunteers who transformed an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth of East Harlem in 1991, according to the organization’s website. It became a hub of neighborhood activity, and is now referred to as Harlem RBI’s “field of dreams.”
The group expanded its services to meet more needs of at-risk youth in East Harlem one year later. New year-round programs included mentoring, a youth newsletter and a summer literacy program. According to the organization, by 1998, more than 1,000 East Harlem youth had benefitted from their education and sports programs in a six-year period. The organization also opened the public DREAM Charter School in 2008 to improve educational opportunities for the children of East Harlem.
Seidman got in touch with Vincent Coleman, the baseball and softball program director, to donate gently used equipment to Harlem RBI. More than 20 students collected several dozen helmets, bats, balls and cleats by the end of October.
Much of the equipment came from the students’ own homes, Seidman said. Several teachers also joined in the effort, he said. And the students wrote letters to their neighbors across Bellmore and Merrick, asking them to leave bags for pick-up in front of their homes.
“I wanted to find something that the students would understand and appreciate,” Seidman said of the project. “I thought the students did an excellent job. They understood the value and the importance of it.”
The donations were supposed to be delivered on Oct. 29, by the students themselves, when they were slated to go on a field trip to a Brooklyn Nets game. But Hurricane Sandy derailed those plans, sweeping through south Merrick and Bellmore and damaging the homes of many students at the high school.
The hurricane only postponed their efforts, however. Several weeks later, Lou Faiella, whose son, Ralph, was in the class, donated shipping services from his own business so the items could be delivered to the foundation by truck.