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Friendly Reminder During Pandemic: Kindness Wins

From the left are Pat Smeraldo of Toys for Tots, Avah and Aaron Lee of AJ Strong, Nick Kahanic of AJ Strong, Jamie Billquist of Rosie’s Run, Rich Bianco of Exceptional Stars Athletics and Terri Johnson of Toys for Tots. Submitted photo

I read the other day an online report that the trading-card industry has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ryan Fagan wrote the following in his sportingnews.com column earlier this month: “People across the country — and the world — stayed home for days, weeks and months, and they looked for ways to pass the time without physically interacting with the outside world.

“Old passions were rediscovered as people rummaged through basements or attics and dove headfirst into nostalgia, searching for happiness. A sizable segment of the population found its baseball/trading cards, and after thumbing through and sorting old collections, the fire ignited once again — and people looked to add.”

I wasn’t one of them.

Fact is, I sold my collection nearly 30 years ago, but learning of the interest and market explosion for trading cards brought back special memories from my youth, thanks to my dad.

The note above was written by Jeff Pearlman to Lakewood resident and Persell Middle School teacher Ken Ricker. Pearlman, the author of “Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty,” sent Ricker the book last week. Submitted photo

Gunnard “Kinky” Kindberg was a Jamestown police officer for more than 30 years. Most of that time, he was stationed on the corner of Third and Main streets downtown where he directed traffic, wearing his special uniform pants and boots. The reason I bring all that up now is because those trousers had deep pockets and, on many occasions, Dad would make a stop at the corner store on his way home from work, throw down a dollar or two on the counter next to the cash register and load up his pockets with baseball cards — priced at 5 cents per wax pack.

The beauty of receiving that haul, as I recall, was that I never asked Dad to make those purchases. He did it “just because,” one of many simple acts of kindness he showed to me and my family on a regular basis until his passing in 2006.

Which brings me to today. At a time when our world desperately needs to be reminded of the importance of being kind, I witnessed two such acts of kindness last week that need to be recognized.

The first one came from Jeff Pearlman.

A New York Times best-selling author, the southern California resident recently released his latest book, “Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty.” Earlier this month, he tweeted the following:

“Been thinking. Life is hard. 2020 is brutal. I’ve got five copies of “Three-Ring Circus” set aside for people who need. If you have someone who’s in the depths, and could use the surprise pick-me-up of a book, email me. I’ll pick five and send. Just because.”

Well, guess who was the beneficiary of Pearlman’s kindness?

Ken Ricker.

The Persell Middle School teacher and Jamestown Community College women’s basketball coach is recovering from back surgery after falling off a roof while painting a house a couple months ago. One of the biggest hoops lovers I know and a voracious reader, Ricker received a copy of the Lakers’ book in the mail last week after Pearlman was notified of the Lakewood resident’s unfortunate accident.

“To Ken,” Pearlman wrote inside the book. “Say no to roofs, yes to hoops.”

“I was excited to add to my library,” Ricker posted to Facebook in response, “and when I went looking at my bookcase I found I have at least four Jeff Pearlman books, and he wrote one of my favorites, ‘The Bad Guys Won’ about the 1986 New York Mets.”

The best part of the story?

Ricker had no connection to the author whatsoever.

“I don’t know Jeff Pearlman,” the Lakewood resident posted.

Kindness won.

The second feel-good story from last week involved the generosity of several local organizations which partnered to raise $4,000 for Toys for Tots in a little more than two days.

Through the efforts of AJStrong, Exceptional Stars Athletics, and Rosie’s Run, in combination with the generosity of the community, the money will benefit 200 children.

“You’re an absolute blessing,” said Nick Kahanic of AJStrong in a Facebook post to the donors. “The continued support and love you show us, and the encouragement and hope you bring us, is amazing and humbling.

“Fifty-two hours. That’s what we gave you, and you made that 52 hours incredible.”

Kahanic noted that Toys for Tots is experiencing a higher demand than ever before.

“There’s also a very limited amount of boxes going out because the number of volunteers going in and out of buildings is just too hard,” he wrote, “so this donation is going to help so many kids in Chautauqua County.”

Then Kahanic, a Falconer resident, gave one last shout-out to all those who offered their financial support.

“I hope you are so proud of yourselves for this,” he wrote. “I know I’m proud to be in this community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Kindness won.

Again.

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