Operation Home Run

The "For the Troops" fund that took root on Phog.net has hit the big time.

With baseball equipment in the foreground and sporting a Kansas City Royals jersey, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan. gestures during a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2003, to discuss Operation Home Run, a project to bring baseball equipment to troops in Iraq. (AP Photo/Lisa Nipp)

And in the beginning.... (Orginally published in the October issue of Jayhawk Illustrated.)

I got an email from one of my sons this morning - the wild younger one who I harped on to join the army and grow up. He fought me on that until 9-11 and then he ran down and enlisted. At first I was scared to death, but later I beamed with pride.

He has been over in the gulf since February, and he will probably over there for another six months. His told me he and his buddies wanted to play some baseball. What else can you do in a desert? He asked me to send some baseball gloves, balls, bats and any other sports equipment I could. Now I have some stuff in storage, but not the quantity he thinks I do.

What do I do, I thought? Then it hit me, maybe my fellow phoggers could help! Now one word of warning - at least two of his buddies are Tigers. So I was thinking if any of you have old baseball other sports equipment you would like to see used to help our boys pass their off duty hours, make sure you write on it "GO KU!"

In mid-July Steve Knowles, aka Jaytalker, posted this on the Phog.net message boards. He had hoped he might gather enough items to send a nice care package off to his son, Pfc Marc Knowles, a member of the 69th Signal Corps temporarily attached to the 3rd Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division in Kuwait.

But somehow, the package got bigger. What began as donations of equipment and cash from message board users snowballed into a full fledged quest and even earned a fancy name – The For the Troops fund.

"Phog.net was key to getting this drive started. The response from the users was so encouraging. Then Tom Light stepped up right away and offered to help. Joel Cox guided me, telling me who to talk to and how to talk to them."

Knowles has taken that advice and put his own energy and passion behind it.

He found his first partner in D & M Sports which provides equipment to Sluggers, a batting range in Wichita. Next Knowles garnered support from Star Lumber, Legacy bank, Don Klausmeyer Construction, and employees at Boeing.

Not all the equipment will read "Go KU" though. ShockerNet also called on its users and fans to contribute for the cause in the name of Wichita State University and several prominent WSU associated people became involved. Roger McClellan of the Catbackers, is heading up the front for Kansas State fans.

Tom Heikes became the point man for Topeka. In addition to distributing flyers and talking with the Topeka media, Heikes worked to include local sports stores and prominent area coaches.

Radio personality "Cornbread" started a promotion on KFDI radio. He dubbed it "Operation Homerun" and has pledged to continue asking for equipment and cash donations until September 11, 2003.

All of this was more than Knowles had ever expected, and more than his son imagined as well.

"Out here is nothing, but sports fans and wanna-be athletes. But when I heard what kind of reply my dad was getting in the community I was blown away. This kind of support is not heard about out here," posted Pfc Marc Knowles on Phog.net. "We hear about the protestors and the families torn apart by this whole situation."

The effort has become so large that Knowles decided to move it beyond supplying just one unit with enough equipment to play a little baseball when off duty.

"I'm getting names of more heroes over there and we are going to send items to their units," said Knowles. "The first was Staff Sergeant Kay Buchanan in the 425th. His wife talked to him and mentioned the drive and he said he wished he could get that type of support."

Wish granted. Knowles now hopes to supply soldiers in based throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. The logistics can be daunting, but Knowles has the motivation and the support to move forward.

To request more information on how you can help or to find out a contact person in your area, call toll free (866)-829-9143.

Send new and used equipment donations to:

For the Troops
c/o Steve Knowles
3801 W 13th Street N. #203
Wichita, Kansas 67203

*****

Featured Link:

Exporting pastime is a team effort

Operation Home Run is hitting the big leagues Tuesday, complete with boxes of equipment and the Famous Chicken.

What started as Wichitan Steve Knowles' quest to get baseball gear to his son in the Persian Gulf will get the endorsement of Major League Baseball in a Capitol Hill event hosted by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard.

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