MLB Umpire Dedicates Time to Helping Kids in Need
Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Paul Emmel. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer as a Point of Light.
For Paul Emmel, it’s all for the kids.
The Major League Baseball umpire has spent the past several years volunteering tirelessly for kids both in his Castle Rock, Colo. community, as well as kids around the country and world. Paul serves as the Secretary for UMPS CARE Charities, a nonprofit formed by MLB umpires to support kids in MLB markets around the country and Canada. The organization’s programs include BLUE for Kids, which delivers Build-a-Bears to children hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses; BLUE Crew Tickets, which provides baseball tickets to kids in need and brings them onto the field; and the All-Star College Scholarship, which helps fund higher education for children adopted later in life.
Aside from UMPS CARE, Paul volunteers at Manna Care, a food market run by his church. Each week, Paul and his kids help stock and provide food and toiletries to families in need. He and his kids donate to and participate in fundraisers for Hope’s Promise, which provides orphan care support around the world. For the past nine years straight, and on-and-off for two decades prior, Paul has coached middle school girls’ and boys’ basketball teams, and he has brought volunteerism to his teams as well. Last year, Paul started having his team support Read to Me, a nonprofit that donates books, blankets and teddy bears to new mothers.
“To me, if we can help that next generation and teach our kids how to live for others, I think this world is going to be a better place,” Paul said.
Describe your volunteer role with UMPS CARE.
By title, I’m the Secretary. We don’t really assign job duties, it’s just whoever has the time and inclination to get things done. That’s what makes it a great organization — people just chip in and get things done. Quarterly we have Board meetings and then once a month we have Executive Board meetings. I also have meetings with the Chairman of the Board, the President, the Vice President, and we basically just talk about general strategies for the future of the charity. We have a staff of three and we get together with those three staff members for the charity. … The charity has four initiatives. I’m involved in all four of those initiatives. The one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is the college scholarship program. About three years ago, I put a team together of five people, and we have worked hundreds of man hours to restructure this and align it with the charity. Our biggest accomplishment was what we call relational integrations. We get these kids. We can give them money, but that really helps their parents. We can’t adopt them, so we do the next best thing and just have a relational integration with them. We bring them back into the charity. They help on the committees. That’s usually a 30 minute-to-an-hour phone call once a week with our committee, just to keep our outreach going and keep our scholarship going and keep the kids on track and keep them involved in their family and fundraising. It’s a labor of love, for sure.
Is there a memory from your time with UMPS CARE that especially sticks out to you?
There’s really two situations. When we go into the hospitals and we sit with those kids and we take them Build-a-Bears, it became evident really early on that when these kids go into the hospitals, they’re out of choices in their life. Their doctors decide their medication and their treatment. Nurses decide what they eat and when they eat. They don’t have anymore choices in their life. When you walk in the room with six different stuffed animals and 12 outfits, you look at the kid and they get to make a choice. We take choices for granted. A lot of time their parents try to step in and choose for them, and we say “No, this is their choice.” For once in a long time they get to choose, and just giving a choice to someone who is out of choices is so impactful. Not to mention that we all have kids, and to see these kids battling what they do with the smiles on their faces — that’s hard sometimes. Sometimes we have to step away and just take a moment to ourselves and regroup.
The other situation is the Tickets program. When we take the at-risk, inner-city kids who grew up on the outside of that giant brick wall, never dreaming they could see what’s on the other side, and take them out on the field. I had one great experience where a Latin-American third baseman came over and he was talking to the kids in Spanish. What he said was, “Don’t be so shocked and awed at this side of the wall. Most of us came from humbling beginnings.” To see the hope in their eyes when they heard that message was just so powerful, and that’s what this charity is all about.
Describe your volunteer role with Manna Care.
Manna Care is through our church in Highlands Ranch, Colo. It’s the third-largest food bank in the state of Colorado. I’ve always been a financial supporter of it. Me and my kids during the wintertime are involved with it. Then [I was] injured and off this season, and able to just be present and involved. Now through the Covid crisis, with the amount of people that we’re giving food to, we almost ran out of food last week. They just keep coming. It’s no longer a working-poor issue. Covid’s become a white-collar issue, too. There are affluent people who are out of work and not getting paid. To be able to give back to the community, just food and toiletries and a prayer, and build them up emotionally and put some groceries in their car, is so impactful for this community. [I’m] able to be there all year round now. Me and my two children put in probably six to eight hours a week. For me, it’s finding time between school and sports to get them down there to stock shelves, and everything from breaking boxes down to putting groceries in peoples’ cars. The need has not gone away.
What drew you to getting involved with Hope’s Promise?
That was about five years ago. Interestingly enough, I was looking for a charity to support with my kids. There is a brother and sister who are my children’s age in the orphanage in Kenya. For them to write letters and communicate and get pictures and watch them grow as my children grow, and to be involved in that, I think is just a massive teaching moment for kids in this country who take advantage. Not through any fault of their own, but there’s so much to live for here and so many choices to make, and we don’t realize that this country is so special in that way, that other countries don’t have that. That’s how we got into it, I was looking for a connection for my kids with kids in another part of the world.
What is Read to Me, and how do you support them?
There is a charity in my daughter’s school that we support and it’s called Read to Me. It’s giving a little stuffed animal, most importantly a book, and a little blanket, so mothers who don’t have the means can read to their kids in the hospital and when they first go home. We all know how important reading is to infants. … [We provide] financial support. Also, with our basketball program at the middle school, we have a Read to Me event so the girls can put together these packages. From the mail comes the bears, the books, and the blankets, and they break these boxes open and they put these packages together. They tie them up and make them nice and cute and pretty to be delivered. The lady who runs the organization then delivers these to the hospital. We’re looking to expand that. The first year was last year, just getting the girls aware of it. Now to follow up this year, I’m hoping to have a Read to Me basketball game where we can get the word out in the community and parents of the other teams that show up. Hopefully we’re going to have a Read to Me fundraising basketball game. Covid may have something to do with that, but that’s my plan.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
I think it’s peace of mind. I’ve learned through trials and tragedies that God doesn’t cause car crashes, and there are a lot of people out there much worse off than me. Those things pull you through things like divorce, and things like injuries and loss, and to me, always knowing there is something else to do out there. When you’re in charity work, your work is never done. There’s always that feeling of tomorrow I have something else to do, and that keeps you going. There’s that feeling of, we did good work today for other people, for our community, for our state, for our country, for our planet. That’s a good feeling to put your head on a pillow at night.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
The people I cross paths with, it’s just so different from the business world. The cutthroat, climbing the corporate ladder, stepping over people — it is the complete opposite. Everybody there is willing to work and ideas get shared and ideas get tried. We work together to move to a common good. I think in the words of Abraham Lincoln, it’s a collective action, and that’s what government is and that’s what charity is. When things run that way, they run so smooth. Meeting people from all walks of life, not just umpires — meeting moms and kids and retired dads — and no matter who you are, it’s working together with all these people to a common good and I think that’s what drives it.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
You have to live for others. You can’t just live for yourself. When you live for yourself, you worry about your circumstances, and when you live for others, your circumstances don’t matter. You’re not judged by them. You don’t live up to them. You’re not disappointed by them. That would be my takeaway for everybody, to just do one thing for somebody else and see how that grows.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Paul? Find local volunteer opportunities.