HANFORD — Sometimes things are bigger than sports. For Dalton Silva, it’s what sparked an idea a year ago.
Last December was the first time Silva had hosted a Christmas Break Baseball Camp and after seeing a positive turnout, he wanted to take it a step further. So this year’s camp will be all about giving back.
Silva, a 2010 graduate of Hanford High and current Reedley College assistant baseball coach, will be hosting two camps this year, adding softball after receiving interest from parents. The two camps will be held next Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 15-16).
The biggest difference this year is the players who sign up for the camp will be required to bring an unopened toy, which will be donated to Hannah’s House and the Frasieur Home.
“[The camp is] essentially a fundraiser for Christmas for less fortunate families and for me to be able to do that, on a personal level, I’m going to be there when they open their presents … just picturing that excitement from the kids and all that, I can’t even imagine what kind of feelings that’s going to bring,” Silva said.
Hannah’s House provides substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, parenting and family groups and more. The Frasieur Home is a sober living residence and an extension of Hannah’s House.
Silva approached Marisa Nardiello, program manager for both Hannah’s House the Frasieur Home, about the idea for gifts for the children and she said her initial reaction was they were “extremely grateful and humbled.”
“We have children at both Hannah’s House and Frasieur home who live there full time and who have come from not always the best of situations,” Nardiello said. “A lot of the times they haven’t had a big Christmas, they haven’t been able to receive gifts. Being able for these children to receive these gifts it gives them the opportunity to experience what Christmas is, what Santa is. To be able to give the gift of joy and happiness for these children is a feeling like no other.”
The toys gathered by the camp will be going to nine girls between the ages of 1-17 and 11 boys between the ages of 2-16.
“Those moms and the kids there they don’t get a chance to have a Christmas that most people have or don’t get a chance to open any gifts,” Silva said. “Some things that we take for granted, I wanted to be able to impact and help our community.”
The Christmas Camps are $60 for both days of instruction or $40 for one day. Saturday will focus on defensive instruction, while Sunday will focus on offensive instruction. The baseball camp will be hosted at the Hanford High School varsity baseball field and the softball camp at 14095 Fargo Ave. at the home of Jeff and Lisa Harger.
“None of this would have been possible if it weren’t initially for Flo Perez and Beau Hill allowing me to do the baseball [camp],” Silva said. “And for softball, Jeff and Lisa Harger allowing us to do it at their field that they have on their property.”
Perez is the current Hanford High baseball coach and Hill is the athletic director for Hanford High. They both opened up the Hanford High Varsity field to allow Silva to host the baseball camp. Jeff Harger was the longtime Hanford West softball coach.
There will be a total of six oaches at the baseball camp, which include Anthony Essien, who coached at Clovis High for 17 years, capturing 7 valley championships, three state championships and two national championships. Essien is currently in his 5th year at Reedley College where he is the pitching/catching coach. Others there will also be former Hanford West and Fresno Pacific University baseball player Eian Raeber and current outfield/hitting coach for the Bullpups Dustin Silva.
For the softball camp, there will be five camp counselors, including Rylee Pierce, who's currently in her senior season at the University of Arizona, she spent three years at the University of Missouri where she claimed All-SEC 2nd team in 2018. Pierce is an El Diamante High School graduate.
Others include Halle Harger and Jordyn Macis, who are currently on the softball team at Boise State.
Silva said the reaction from the idea of donating toys has been nothing but positive. Former athletes have told him, “You’re helping our community, you’re helping our kids.” After Silva told Mercado and Carniceria Del Valle, located on N. 10th Ave., what he was doing the supermarket decided to donate 50 breakfast burritos for the baseball camp.
So far, 34 have RSVP’d for the softball camp and 17 for baseball. Those with questions or who want to sign up for the camps can email Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also hoping with the money they raise he’s able to buy a present that can be used by all the children at Hannah’s House and the Frasieur Home.
“I want to get a big present for all of them,” Silva said. “Not a PlayStation, not an Xbox, not something that stays inside, something that gets them outside. We’re hoping for a really big turnout so the camp is able to provide that for them. That would be perfect.”