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Panthers Travel To Dominican Republic
• Peninsula High freshmen travel to the Dominican Republic to give away recycled baseball equipment.

Many people are fortunate enough to eat three times a day and have a place to live. However, there are also people who would appreciate even the smallest things, such as a hat.
From Dec. 14 to Dec. 20, five Peninsula High School freshmen went to the Dominican Republic with RBI HIT, an organization that gathers used baseball equipment from around the community to bring to less fortunate areas.
Jake LaBreche, Ethan Wang, Grant Zane, Eli Somers and Toby Wakefield-Karl all played Little League and, when they upgraded their bats, realize they could donate their equipment directly to less fortunate young players. With that in mind, the boys sought donations of baseball equipment, collecting 1,196 items in total.
They also held a USC bike donation and were able to obtain 75 bikes, which were given through the Manny Mota Foundation. The boys, Grant Zane’s brother Parker, and their fathers flew a red-eye flight from LAX to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Santo Domingo to distribute the donations.
When they landed, Dodgers’ staff picked them up and took them to Campo Las Palmas, where they were staying. During the first day, they served food they brought from the United States to children and senior citizens at Manny Mota’s academy. They also handed out the donated bikes and baseball bats.
pen.frosh.c“I think the best part of the trip was seeing the kids’ faces after we gave them the baseball equipment,” LaBreche said. “It made me realize how fortunate we are to live in such a nice place.”
On the fourth day, they visited Futuro Vivo, a Catholic school that the O’Malley family adopted and still funds. The boys’ passed out Dodgers hats and T-shirts to the kids and toured the school.
The school is free for all local students, and their parents are required to volunteer there. On the fifth day, they visited an all-girls orphanage called Pasitos De Jesus, located in Boca Chica.
The orphanage was founded by Daima Florian, who started it to take care of one girl suffering from Down Syndrome. The orphanage has expanded to house more than 40 girls who had been abandoned and abused.
In light of the holiday spirit, the boys bought dolls for the girls from a local store and were able to listen to the girls sing songs and participate themselves with renditions of Feliz Navidad.  
”One difficulty of the trip was we did physical labor like I had never done before,” Somers said. “One day we unloaded an entire shipping container of food, household goods and sporting equipment. Another day we hauled 50 pound bags of rice for the Manny Mota Foundation. We worked very hard and it was tiring!”
Along with the work, the boys were also able to have fun with the locals and go sightseeing.
They were able to play a few innings of baseball with Manny Mota’s Dominican team as well as games with the local boys. They were also able to practice every day on the same pristine fields that the Dominican drafted Dodgers use.
On day three, they attended a Dominican League baseball game and witnessed a historic home run. The boys felt the passion that the Dominicans had for baseball and were happy that they were able to encourage this feeling.
“Honestly, this was perhaps a once in a lifetime trip,” Somers said. “We got to stay in the Dodgers facilities and work with disadvantaged kids. When you give a kid a used baseball bat and he cries because he has never owned a bat before, you are touched.
When you serve a kid their only hot meal of the day, you are grateful. And when you go to an orphanage and the kids greet you with smiles and song, you are humbled.”
pen.froshOn their last day, the boys went to Manny and his wife Margarita’s home, where they listened to Mota’s Major League stories from his playing days.
Mota also showed them his World Series ring, World Series trophy as well as his Silver Slugger Award Bat. Manny asked the boys to recount what they learned and saw during their stay there and all the boys expressed their gratitude for being able to help children who were less privileged than them.
It also allowed them to think about everything they have and how lucky they are to live in a place where they don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from.
“It was great to see the boys being in an environment that they are not accustomed to, as well as initially being a little bit out of their comfort zone,” said John LaBreche. “However, the more time they spent there the more relaxed they felt and you could see them genuinely feeling great about helping less fortunate people. A very humbling and awesome experience for them to grow as individuals while doing gratifying work.”

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