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April 5, 2013

Young player reaching out to young people

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech softball player Kylie McGoldrick has established a charity that collects used baseball and softball equipment and gives it to needy youth organizations

Kylie McGoldrick and her family started a chartiy several years
ago and continue to try and make a difference in young
people’s lives.

The details are a bit fuzzy. She doesn’t remember the exact day or time of day or even the show. But she remembers the moment.

Kylie McGoldrick sat on the sofa in her family’s living room in Stratford, N.J., watching some show on television with her father, Kevin. The crux of the evening’s entertainment dealt with underprivileged children playing ball, and at that moment, it touched a nerve.

“We were like, ‘What can we do to help give back?’” Kylie said.

Not long thereafter, they went into their garage. Kylie noticed a lot of her old softball equipment lying around. She remembered the show and those underprivileged children. She and her family decided to take action.

Now, more than two years later, she’s a sophomore at Virginia Tech. She’s started every game she’s played in except one, and in her brief career, she’s hitting better than .270.

But none of that compares to what she’s been doing off the field. It’s there where she’s simply hitting it out of the park.

Kylie and her younger brother, Ryan, along with help from her parents, started a charitable organization entitled “17K Diamonds for All” in which they collect used softball and baseball equipment and redistribute it to needy youth organizations. Their goal is a simple one – to provide kids with the opportunity to play ball.

“We (she and her brother) realized how blessed we are that God has provided us with the opportunity to play this sport that we all love,” Kylie said. “We’ve always had the equipment available to us and the teams to jump and travel all around the country to get exposure to these college coaches.

“We went into our garage one day, and we already had this much stuff here, so we decided, ‘Let’s start something.’ We came up with the name together. It’s ‘17K Diamonds for All.’ My family has always worn the number ‘17,’ so we went for that. The ‘K’ is for Kylie and ‘Diamonds for All’ is because the baseball and softball field is in the shape of a diamond.”

Kevin McGoldrick created a website to get more information out there about the organization ( They also use their website to notify those interested about when and where they collect equipment, and where that equipment ends up.

Their first collection of used equipment came in late June of 2009. Kylie played for a travel team based in Newtown, Pa., called the Newtown Rock Gold, and the Rock Gold played in a local tournament that featured several other teams.

She contacted the tournament director and the head coaches of the other teams, notifying them of her plans to collect used equipment and asking them for help. She encouraged those coaches to contact the parents of their players and have them bring in any used equipment that their daughters may have outgrown.

Her father made signs to be posted at the tournament, and her family brought bins to collect the equipment. The response was overwhelming.

They collected more than 65 bats, 18 helmets, dozens of softball and baseballs, six sets of catchers’ gear, a dozen gloves, several dozen cleats, several sets of jerseys and pants and several bat and gear bags. They donated all the equipment to the Boys and Girls Club of Camden County, N.J.

“My wife and I have always been about giving back, and we’re fortunate that both of our kids have been able to play ball,” Kevin McGoldrick said. “We’ve helped them, but we’ve really allowed them to implement it.

“Both of our kids have always tried to find a way to help others, and this is a really simple concept. I remember a few years ago, when the troops went abroad, they used Silly String to detect trip wires (around bombs), and Kylie’s school started a campaign to collect Silly String. She was a part of that. That’s a simple concept, but the concept doesn’t have to be big. There are a lot of ways to help folks.”

Kylie and her family also have helped other organizations. They held a collection in which they gave the equipment to their local church in Laurel Springs, N.J., to put toward its youth organizations. Again, the response was overwhelming.

Then, she brought “17K Diamonds for All” to Blacksburg.

Kylie arrived in Blacksburg in the fall of 2011, and she knew that academic demands and softball workouts might cut into time that could be used for developing and enhancing her charity organization. But she refused to let that stop her from bringing the organization to the area.

Before this past Christmas, she asked her teammates and Tech’s baseball players to bring back any of their old gear that they weren’t using when they returned from Christmas break. She called Micah’s Backpack, a local church-affiliated organization, to see if officials there could put the equipment to use, but that group deals more with helping to fight hunger than providing sports opportunities. Someone there, though, suggested that she try the Montgomery County Parks and Recreation office, and sure enough, they offered to take whatever she collected.

Just from her teammates and the baseball players, she collected 23 gloves, 11 bats, three bat bags, 15 pairs of cleats and a set of catcher’s equipment. All that equipment will benefit young children in the Montgomery County area.

“I usually call the place and let them know what the charity is about and ask them if they think they would be able to put it to good use,” Kylie said. “I did the same thing with my church. Around here, I started off calling Micah’s Backpack to see if they would need anything, and they didn’t, but they pointed me in the direction of Montgomery County Parks and Rec. I also checked with Special Olympics. I sort of filtered my way through until I found someone in need.”

Kylie has found a kindred spirit for helping others in the form of Tech baseball coach Pete Hughes. The two actually met at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Blacksburg while attending services there, and Kylie became aware of Hughes’ many community service projects.

As most know, Hughes came up with his “19 Ways” campaign in which he and his team find 19 ways each year to help individuals or organizations. Kylie asked Hughes many questions about his charitable endeavors, just to get an insight on how he goes about helping others.

“I’ve talked a lot of with Coach Hughes because I know how much he does around here charity wise,” she said. “It’s an inspiration to see a man who is just as busy as we are finding the time to do all that type of stuff.

“He’s the one who got me involved with Micah’s Backpacks. I started with the Special Olympics through a communications project that I had last year, but his team is involved with Special Olympics, too. He’s definitely an inspiration. It lets you know that if everyone puts a little into this, we can all make a difference.”

McGoldrick also has made a difference on the field for the Hokies. Undaunted at playing in the ACC, she started all 63 games as a freshman at second base. She hit a respectable .264, with four homers and 27 RBI. She scored 33 runs and her 30 walks set a Tech freshman record. She committed just 12 errors in the field.

One of her best games came in the ACC Tournament. Against then-No. 21 North Carolina, she went 2 for 3 and scored a run, and Tech’s win arguably sealed an NCAA regional spot. She earned all-tournament honors for her play in the league’s tournament.

The left-handed hitting Kylie McGoldrick has started every game
in which she’s played at Tech the past two years except for one

“Everyone comes in with the drive to work their butts off, just to try to play their freshman year,” she said. “I was told by my travel coach coming in that I needed to figure out my role and learn my role because it can completely change once you get to college. I was just fortunate enough to play second base the last two years of travel ball and then come in and fill that spot here. It was awesome playing the middle with Bkaye Smith (Tech’s shortstop). She was good at coaching me along the way, so I was prepared. She was great support.”

So far this season (as of press time), in spite of a balky knee, McGoldrick is hitting .300, with three homers and nine RBI, including a school-record tying two homers in a game against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C. She and her sophomore classmates, a talented group led by her, Kelsey Mericka and Lauren Gaskill, played huge roles in helping the Hokies break into the national polls in mid-March and in helping pull off upsets of nationally ranked UCLA, Michigan and Arizona on their spring break trip.

Tech’s goals for this season were quite lofty – to win the ACC and to advance to the NCAA regionals for the sixth time in the program’s young history. But with McGoldrick, Mericka, Gaskill and senior leaders like Courtney Liddle and Jasmin Harrell, those goals are attainable.

McGoldrick, though, will never lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to help others. She plans on holding another collection this spring, one in conjunction with a softball game, and she wants “17K Diamonds for All” to get to the point where it holds at least two or three collections each year.

“I hope to run one in the fall and the spring, and maybe during Christmas break,” she said. “I never try to put a prediction out there. Whatever you get is awesome and you’re always thankful for that. But the more we can get, the better.

“It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s awesome to see so many people who are ready to give back. It’s hard to step up and try to do it. It can be time consuming. But once you drop off that equipment, you leave with a feeling of gratitude. People have told me that you don’t realize how appreciative these kids are. One little glove might change their life. Hearing that from other people is motivation and drive to make it bigger.”

McGoldrick plans on keeping the organization going even after her playing days end in a couple of years. That comes as no surprise to those who know her best. Kevin and Lynn McGoldrick have seen their daughter participate in activities at their church and Special Olympics, and even Buddy Ball, an organization that gives individuals with mental or physical disabilities the opportunity to play sports, regardless of their abilities. She gravitates to those with the most serious challenges.

She always has, displaying traits rarely seen in a 19-year-old. Her passion for helping others is arguably equal to her passion for playing softball. Maybe it exceeds it.

“For me, what she’s doing is more important than her batting average,” Kevin said. “I try not to be braggadocios, but I’m proud of her. Hey, as parents, it’s our No. 1 job – to raise our kids to help others. So I’m proud of her and her brother.”

He’s not the only one. Folks in these parts continue to hear what Kylie is doing to help others – and they’re pretty proud of her, too.