OBLONG, Ill. (WTHI) - It may not seem like much. But surrounded by cornfields, a baseball field helps bring the community of Oblong together.
Zander Laino says, "Not a lot goes on. A pretty small town, everybody knows everybody. Really was a pretty big baseball town when i was younger. We had a really great junior little league. So you know grew up with a bunch of good friends playing baseball."
The lessons he learned on the diamond helped mold Zander Laino. Giving him a sense of community and teamwork. So it may not be surprising to hear what he's accomplished.
Zander explains, "When I was in seventh grade, I was sitting with my mom and we were watching tv and the news came on. We saw about all the tragedy and tornadoes that hit Joplin, Missouri that year."
The devastation struck a chord with Zander. He knew what he needed to do.
"We got to talking and we were like 'you know let's help them out, let's send them some money.' we just planned this home run derby in a week or so. You know I always loved baseball. We like helping people." Zander says.
So, on the small ball field, the community was brought together to help Joplin. But Zander's home run derby continued. Raising nearly $20,000 over seven years.
Some years the money went to help local kids get baseball equipment. But a few times, that money went to something a little more important.
Zander says, "There was a girl, I think she was in seventh grade. My sister played softball with her. I knew her kind of personally. And she had been diagnosed with cancer. Well, here we go let's help her."
Three years Zander and his derby raised thousands of dollars for three different kids with ties to the community.
"when you get talking about medical bills and everything, two thousand dollars isn't really going to take you that far. But it's just the community backing that's really important there." Zander says.
Using his love of baseball and this town, to make a difference in his community.