That’s all it took for the Alvinston Minor Baseball Association to raise enough money to change its team name and buy new uniforms for its players and coaches.
On the last weekend in October, the team announced it wanted to drop the name Indians.
President Andy Triest said the association has been considering the change for a number of years because the minor ball teams have faced criticism for the name when playing in First Nations communities.
But when an indigenous person went to court to try to stop Cleveland from wearing the Chief Wahoo logo and using the name The Indians during the Toronto Blue Jays playoff run, Triest says it struck a chord with him and the other members of the association – so they are making the change now.
The campaign struck a chord with an online video of the children saying “If the pros won’t do it, we will.”
The GoFundMe site set up to raise the $29,000 went viral and association board member Dan Cummings says the calls started flooding in. “We talked to news outlets all across the country,” he says noting the story was featured in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.
American newspapers took notice, too, with the New York Daily News contacting the club about the idea. “I spoke to people in Toronto for Breakfast Television, we talked to all kinds of radio stations and radio call in shows.”
The item was also featured on CBC’s The National.
Cumming says the news reached around the globe.
“I have a friend who lived in Guatemala…she was contacted by friends who still live there who said ‘isn’t this the small town you lived in?’”
The media attention translated into lots of traffic online. In five days, the minor ball association had the $29,000 to provide new uniforms for the players and the coaches plus nearly $1,000 extra. That money will go to other communities to help kids play ball this summer.
Cumming said some of the most encouraging comments came from indigenous people who called from as far away as Quebec after hearing the news. “I was contacted by a gentleman in Quebec – he referred to it as Mohawk Territory – and he was totally surprised and shocked a small town in Ontario would do this.
“He kept reiterating how impressed he and his neighbours were and that we had taken these steps.
“It shows when you give respect, you get it back and it just reaffirms it was, 100 per cent, the right thing to do.”
Though the fundraising is done, Cumming says there is still work to do.
Over the next few weeks, the association will be asking the public via Facebook and school children to help find a new name. “We want to give the kids a week or two to get their ideas in,” he says adding the new uniforms should be ready to go in the spring.
As for the kids, Cumming says they’re taking all of the attention in stride. “The kids actually have a better understanding than many adults of why we are doing this…
“For them, it really just boils down to it is the right thing to do… to show respect and that just stays with them,” says Cumming.