Sunday, July 3, 2011

Darryl Strawberry Pitches In For A Good Cause

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak with Darryl Strawberry briefly as he was signing autographs at Dutchess Stadium, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades (Short season single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Ray's).

Strawberry was on hand to help raise money for the Renegades' Pitch For Kids Fund which provides grants to non-profit organizations that help children and families throughout the Hudson Valley. The fundraiser also benefited the Poughkeepsie Professional Firefighters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 596, which sponsors little league teams and other youth sports throughout the City of Poughkeepsie.

I could have asked Strawberry about the current Mets team, or his thoughts on the Subway Series, but I know I would have just gotten a canned response. Plus I was only allowed to ask him a couple questions.

Instead, I decided to ask him about his foundation which aims to raise money and awareness for people affected by autism.

For those who are unaware, autism is a big area of interest for me as I have a family member on the autism spectrum, and I also work with autistic students.

I know your foundation deals with the "Fight For Autism," how did you decide to go with autism as your focus? Has it affected you personally?

"No, it hasn't affected me personally. Not at all. I mean, I have five wonderfully, healthy children. My wife has three, so we have a total of eight. My wife's sister works with children with autism, and we went to visit them in '06 and it affected me then. That's when I realized that I needed to help. So, we basically took it up on our own to start a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization called the Darryl Strawberry Foundation, and started raising money for children affected with autism."

Before the game, you met with students and staff from the Anderson Center for Autism. How was the experience?

"Great. I'm right at home, because I've been doing it since '06, so it was just a very familiar place for me, it's not an unknown place for me. I love children with disabilities, children with autism, children that are affected by just about anything. I love them. I have compassion, true compassion, for the children affected with autism. Autistic children has become me and my wife's life and we are just truly greatful and blessed to know that we have the opportunity to be a part, to be a voice for them, and keep the message out there about children affected and diagnosed with autism."

For more on the Darryl Strawberry Foundation, click here.

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