Severe weather has been more prominent across Nebraska this summer.
A recent storm hit Beaver Crossing, roughly 30 miles northwest of Crete, exponentially hard and destroyed its baseball field.
But in the wake of the devastation, local teams Beaver Crossing has played over the years gave their time to help the community.
And so did Doane baseball coaches Jeremy Jorgensen and Josh Oltmans.
Using baseball as a way to give families a sense of normalcy, the nearby town of Milford hosted the Beaver Crossing Benefit Tournament for youth teams 12-and-under and 10-and-under on May 31.
“Baseball is such a social event for a small town,” said Oltmans, an assistant coach for Tiger baseball, “and having this to turn to in the midst of their clean-up efforts had to make them feel like things could get back to normal.”
Oltmans and Jorgensen, the Tigers’ head coach, volunteered their time to umpire at the tournament.
Glad he could help, Oltmans stayed for the first half of the day and said he wished he could have been available to do more.
“I grew up in small-town Nebraska and realize how important summer baseball is to a lot of these kids and families,” he said. “I feel blessed with what baseball has done for me in my life and this tournament was a great way to give back.”
Community members Ann Collingham (of Milford) and Tamara Kenning (Beaver Crossing) organized the tournament, coming up with the idea and putting it all together in about two weeks.
“I just volunteered to help the Beaver Crossing youth baseball program get the ball teams back up and running while they focused on taking care of their families and households,” Collingham said in an email. “The goal was to help give the kids a sense of normalcy after their lives had been turned upside down.”
Along with the tournament, the benefit had a silent auction, raffle prizes, concessions and face painting with proceeds going to Beaver Crossing’s youth baseball program. Surrounding towns and businesses donated food, gift certificates, a grill, helmets, uniforms and many other things for the cause.
Doane’s Director of Human Resources Laura Sears, whose husband and son were involved in the tournament as a coach and player respectively, said the people in Beaver Crossing felt supported knowing so many people cared.
“It was a matter of several surrounding communities all pitching in to help the town of Beaver Crossing and these kids,” Sears said.
Teams from Ceresco, Crete, Denton, Milford, Pleasant Dale, Utica and Valparaiso played in the tournament.
The help and support was heart-warming to see, Sears said, and it made an impact on the kids by showing them firsthand that when others need help, you help them.
And for Doane’s baseball coaches, it offered perspective.
“It was a humbling experience,” Oltmans said. “I am so glad I was able to help with the tournament and share my love for baseball with a few of the kids and coaches there.”