TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Not willing to let the year of “firsts” — birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas — come and go without honoring her late grandson, Nina Ski is pitching for a “Field of Dreams.”
Andrew Metlenko, No. 18 on the Tahoe Truckee High School baseball team and baseball statistic whiz, died in a single vehicle rollover June 11, four days shy of his high school graduation.
Nina asked her daughter, Laura Metlenko — Andrew’s mom — “If you had a dream, what would it be?”
Laura replied she’d like a new baseball field for Truckee High and all the neighborhood kids.
Laura elected to use remaining memorial funds to purchase a scoreboard, but the energizer grandmother is pulling out all the stops.
Often during times of profound grief and loss, it’s easy to get lost in a miasma of not knowing what to do. Not this grandma.
“I’m on fire,” said Nina. “I normally have a lot of energy … but this story might be titled ‘little old lady goes crazy fundraising.’”
A 35-year resident, Ski has a history of fundraising for the community’s youth, having four of her own graduate from Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. And she’s going to make sure there is fun to be had as she develops events to invest in the children. And this is intended for all kids, she said, of all socio-economic status.
“We’re giving back to the community because everybody has been so amazing in our time of need,” said Laura. “A bunch of community members are helping make this a reality.”
Nina has collection jars out and about in stores in town.
“Mom taught us if we fall, stand back up, when we get to the end of the rope, tie another knot,” Nina explained.
She stands tall, truly tries not to break down with grief and “walks in with her self” when asking about placing a donation jar to fund the Field of Dreams.
“If you’re interested, I just so happen to have one in the car,” Nina quipped. “It’s almost an honor — I’m not going to stop!”
About 35 jars are located in Truckee businesses — so far. Knowing a lot of folks can’t afford to donate, the ongoing penny fundraiser allows everyone to get involved. Even extended care patients are in the game, counting and rolling the pennies.
Larry Harper from the Good Tidings Foundation asked players if he and his son could join them on the Truckee High School baseball field to practice last summer. Good Tidings, founded in 1995, is a 501(c)3 children’s nonprofit that supports arts, education, athletics and dreams for youth. Harper left his card, and the Metlenkos called him.
“He is willing to help us as a family and a community to refurbish the Truckee Tahoe High School baseball field; using real baseball dirt, quality grass for this area and new sprinkler/plumbing,” wrote Nina in a letter of explanation.
When Laura spoke with Harper, she said “in my dream of all dreams, I’d like to see a baseball field makeover.”
Laura feared Harper was merely pulling her heartstrings. However, he made a trip to Truckee and met with Truckee-Donner Recreation & Parks District and TTUSD representatives, including Coach Ellis.
Good Tidings plans on trucking special dirt, created specifically for AT&T Park in San Francisco, to the Truckee field.
“My boys are my life,” said Laura of Andrew and his two brothers. “They are so giving, so thoughtful, and have made their own legacy in this community — it’s my job as a parent to continue that.”
Does Laura believe the Field of Dreams will become a reality?
“Yes I absolutely do — we’re definitely well on our way,” she affirmed. “My goal is to raise roughly $50,000, including what we’re going to give back.”
And Grandmother Nina “keeps on keepin’ on,” with community kids offering hugs and smiles — a blessed motivator.
On Saturday, Nina plans to hold a “Make a Difference Day,” to ensure vehicles are in good operating condition while toting the kids to soccer. Learn how to check your fluids and more — the essentials to perform a car’s “honeydo.” California Highway Patrol officers will be on site to check proper installation of car seats and, under certain guidelines, replace the old seat with a new one. Drop by Saturday, Oct. 26, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Auto Doctor in Truckee.
FIELD OF DREAMS FUNDRAISERS
Ongoing: Penny Drive Fundraiser, donation jars in Truckee businesses
Oct. 26: Forever #18 Home Run Derby, all are welcome to participate, sign ups start at 7 a.m. game at 9 a.m., Truckee High School baseball field
Oct. 26: T.T.H.S. “Field of Dreams” Vehicle Safety Check, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Auto Doctor, 12000 Pioneer Trail
Nov. 10: “Forever #18” Field of Dreams, Baseball Pan Handling Day
Nov. 30 and Dec. 1: Santa’s Closet, Community Arts Center, Saturday 9-6 p.m. and Sunday 9-4 p.m.
Dec. 1: “Black Tie” Art Auction, fundraiser at Art Obsessions in downtown Truckee, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 20: Fiesta Dinner, Community Arts Center
Dec. 20: “Forever #18” Raffle, ticket sales for many awesome prizes by baseball students
covering the bases
CHP vs. TTHS “Softball Game” TBA
Truckee Police Department vs. TTHS “Basketball Game” TBA
Zano’s Family Dinner with Entertainment
Golf Tourney “Top Dog” Hole-in-One prize Luxor electric golf cart
Golf Tourney “Teens Only” prize TBA location Ponderosa Golf Course
Battle of the Bands TBA location: Truckee rodeo grounds
“Tie Dye in the Park”
Affordable Ceramics and Art for Teens
Mentorship program to provide business opportunities from fundraisers
“We can’t bring him back,” said the indomitable Nina Ski. “The only promise we have when we’re born is that we’re going to die — there’s no menu to tell us what the order is.”
A nonprofit account has been set up with the Good Tidings Foundation, please memo: Andrew Metlenko or Truckee Tahoe High School Baseball Field. Check out Good Tidings at www.goodtidings.org, or send your donations to P.O. Box 2582, Truckee, CA. 96160. Checks must be made out to Laura or Michael Metlenko.