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Reverse roadblock

It’s a familiar sight: young people in neon safety vests, standing in a busy intersection, hands stretched out hopefully. Great – yet another group asking for donations, right?

Not this time.

Friday the Russellville 8U All Stars descended on the intersection of Washington Avenue and Madison Street in downtown Russellville, and the Division 1 district champs weren’t looking for a handout. Instead, they were looking to give a little something back.

Early in the season the young baseball athletes conducted a roadblock to collect funds to purchase their uniforms. After a fun and successful season, head coach Cody Bragwell said he found his team had about $300 left over. He could have saved it for next season, but he had another plan in mind. The idea to give back any extra money had been kicked around last year, and this year Bragwell said he was determined to make it happen.

“We just thought this would be a good idea, to give back to the community – to never take too much and to give back,” Bragwell said. “We’re just trying to take the stigma off of it so people won’t go around us or get mad … We thought what better way to make people feel better about it than to give money back to them?”

Bragwell, assistant coach Chess Stockton, Kevin Stone and Mike Garrison, each joined by one or two 8U team members, manned each of the four entrances to their chosen intersection. Those cars that stopped to oblige the young do-gooders were in for a reverse roadblock surprise.

Passing motorists were largely confused by the gesture of gratitude. Rolling their windows down with donations already in hand, many drivers seemed not to understand they were being given money instead. The ballplayers and their fathers/coaches often had to explain their intentions more than once. Some would-be donors flat out turned down the $1 bills eager 8-year-olds thrust in their windows, but most seemed touched by the offer.

“I saw my first this afternoon,” wrote Russellville resident Sam Warf on Facebook. “Kids and parents had a road block at the of Methodist Church Russellville, so I get my money ready.” Warf wrote when he made it to the intersection and found out the young athletes and their coaches/fathers were giving money away instead, it “restored my value in mankind – great job.”

Stone, who handed out money with his son Shaler, agreed he’s never seen something like their giveaway done before. “We had extra; we had a little bit left over; and we wanted to give it back to the people who supported us,” Stone said – simple as that. “We ask all the time, and we don’t get many opportunities to give back. This is a little thing we can do.”

Stockton handled one side of the intersection with his son Ridge. He said he felt the giveaway was just a good way to thank community members for their generosity. “It’s amazing; some people will give $20,” Stockton said. “We did really well last time we took up money.”

Bragwell, who manned the west side of the intersection with his son Porter and teammate Asher Campbell, said while he thought about hanging onto the surplus for the next season, he hopes giving back to the community will pay off greater dividends in the future.

“There’s always going to be All Stars. We’re always going to have 12 kids trying to buy uniforms, travel, go all over the state,” Bragwell said. “I think giving $1 back is going to make people think twice.”

Mike Garrison, who helped out in the giveaway with his son/team member Brayden Garrison, agreed it was a great idea for the team to give back. “I think it will help out a lot,” Garrison said. “Some people don’t want to give; they’ll turn and go the other way. This brings it back to – it’s OK to give, and we appreciate you giving. I think it will help other teams trying to raise money, also.”

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