09/14/2012 05:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Better Way to Give Back

Many baseball fans have heard about the Arizona Diamondbacks commitment to the community, with the team having recently surpassed the $30 million mark in charitable giving after receiving the inaugural NGO Positive Peace Award from the United Nations.

But the newest undertaking inside the walls of Chase Field may very well revolutionize the way companies across America give back.

The D-backs Give Back League was created early this summer by employees of the Arizona Diamondbacks who wanted to find a way to volunteer for organizations that mattered most to them. Conceived by a member of the finance department, it has already left a lasting mark on countless nonprofit organizations across Phoenix and more than 100 employees of the ball club.

"When we first heard this idea back in November, we knew it had incredible potential but I don't think any of us could have imagined the way it would affect our employees so profoundly," said D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall. "To see these projects come to fruition has been one of the most rewarding things any of us have ever been a part of."

Launched in April, nine different employees volunteered to be the respective "team captains" in the Give Back League and from there, they each drafted a dozen employees who had chosen to volunteer. Each team determined a project that was meaningful to them with the intention of being finished by the end of the World Series.


Photo credit: Arizona Diamondbacks

In early November, the teams will present what they have accomplished in the community to a panel of club executives and the winning team will receive a free trip to the Dominican Republic. The employees will get the chance to visit the franchise's academy in Boca Chica and perhaps enjoy a day on the beach in the Caribbean, but that's hardly the most important part of the trip.

While in the Dominican Republic, the group of D-backs employees will take part in a community service project there, too, as the island nation has certainly seen its fair share of poverty.

"What is truly amazing is how many groups have said that the trip to the Dominican is really not the incentive that is driving them," said D-backs Executive Vice President Cullen Maxey. "The culture of innovation and giving back in this organization has really gripped our employees and allowed our employees to determine the areas they want to impact."

Among the organizations that are working with the D-backs Give Back League are Ozanam Manor, UMOM new day centers, Children First Academy, Phoenix Dream Center, Imagine School, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Kitchen on the Street, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Central Arizona, Ronald McDonald House Phoenix, Pedal Power and many more.
The projects range from the renovation of four Child Protective Service offices around the state that assist foster kids to the renovation of a school playground; from reading to homeless children to packing "bags of hope" for youngsters who go hungry each weekend; and from building a homeless shelter to passing along the love of giving back in the community to those less fortunate.

"Everyone wanted to be involved in something but no one had found what their real passion was," said D-backs Director of Corporate Partnership Services Kerri White who heads up the team called The Community Apprentice. "So our goal is just to help as many organizations as we possibly can."

The experience has been eye opening on every level.

"We were very unaware that the population of homeless people included so many young kids," said D-backs Event Coordinator Jeff Gomez, co-captain of Team Champ Up. "Many of these kids would rather sleep on a roof somewhere than go to some of the shelters that are out there."

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars raised and hundreds of hours of volunteer efforts, the impact that these groups are having on Valley non-profits is evident.

"This is a group for the community to follow after," said Dina Gerdon, Community Director of Children First Academy. "They have been able to accomplish more than any group we have ever seen. The funding, networking, supplies, donations and resources that they brought to the table surpassed all expectations of what we thought this partnership would turn out to be."

Meanwhile, the D-backs Give Back League has had other benefits as well including team building and leadership growth at every level.

"I've really seen just how talented our employees are," said D-backs Director of Group Sales Ryan Holmstedt, co-captain of Team Fostering Hope. "Each individual has different skill sets and they've come together to form something really special and in the meantime, we've really gotten to know our co-workers throughout the organization."