By Leigh Cesanek
Jake DeWitt was not one who was going to sit by and just watch the tragedy unfold after Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey. A few days after the storm he was inspired to help the victims when he was simply thinking about his baseball team. His team’s coach made silicon wristbands, Jake says, to “commemorate the trust we have in each other.” That gave Jake the idea to sell similar wristbands in order to help Sandy victims. He chose the slogan “We Are Jersey Strong” for the bracelets because he felt it best represented the values that our state stands for. “We are prideful, strong-willed, and we have a natural instinct to care for one another despite that I only knew a few people affected by the storm,” Jake said.
Jake’s personal motivation was to help the people in need. “If I was a victim, I would hope that a stranger would do the same for me,” he says, “I couldn’t stand by and watch hell unfold in New Jersey.” He turned to his baseball team to help with the process of selling wristbands. He said that he knew from the start that they would be a great support group if he decided to go through with this idea.
When he proposed the idea to his teammates, Jake describes their feelings as “ecstatic.” His team proved to be just as supportive as he thought they would be. After jumping on board right away, they pulled through with the effort until the end. “I can’t stress enough how much of a team effort it has been in raising the funds to help people,” Jake says. “My team is full of tremendous, selfless individuals who work well together, from the coaching staff to the athletic department officials, players and our families.”
Jake’s goal was to raise enough money to make a donation to Sandy victims before the holidays. However, the team wasn’t able to make enough to donate until mid-January. They sold the wristbands in Eickhoff, in their local communities, and at high school championships games that The College hosted. Jake says that they also received donations from a baseball team at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
Jake was proud of his small team’s efforts and their ability to eventually raise $8,000 in donations for the Sandy victims. He says they “were able to bond together and make a positive impact in a college community and the state.” The importance behind the difference Jake was able to make is something he and his team take to heart. “Too often we hear about athletic teams getting in trouble off campus and hazing throughout the country. But we aren’t that sort of team. We live by the standards of New Jersey Baseball and doing things the right way. We all truly believe in that concept and take it to heart,” he says.
Behind the baseball team is their support system which Jake values just as much. “Our parents and our coaches have had an immense impact on who we are as people and this fundraiser is really an ode to them for raising motivated children with good intentions,” Jake explains.
The team chose to donate to the American Red Cross Jersey Coast Chapter based in Tinton Falls, NJ. They donate exclusively to needy victims along the coast. Their donation provided food, living essentials, shelter, and more to the victims according to Jake. With the help of his team, Jake was able to make a difference that meant more than just a donation. “More importantly than the money, we hope that our effort was able to inspire those around us to take action and face adversity, no matter how cumbersome the obstacles may seem at times. We wanted to provide hope, faith, and security to the victims in that they knew strangers were out there trying to help,” he says.