Saskatchewan

Sask. couple collects more than 3 tonnes of baseball equipment for kids in Cuba

A couple from Lockwood, Sask., is driving around the province to collect baseball equipment to donate to kids in Cuba.

Reg Greve looking for efficient way to ship the equipment

Ruth and Reg Greve (back right) previously donated some baseball supplies to a team in Mantanzas, Cuba, in 2016. (Supplied by Ruth Greve)

A couple from Lockwood, Sask., is driving around the province to collect baseball equipment to donate to kids in Cuba.

Reg Greve and his wife, Ruth, were in Varadero, Cuba, on vacation almost a decade ago and noticed children playing ball using tree branches as bats and rocks as baseballs.

On their next trip, they took used gloves and balls to hand out to kids on the street. Greve said seeing their reaction made them want to do more. 

"It's overwhelming and that's the part that got to our hearts, I guess," said Greve. "The kids, they just cannot believe it. They sit there and look at this glove in bewilderment, 'Holy lightning, I'm the only one on the block that's got one.' 

"They're just overjoyed to get something like that."

Greve, who farms south of Lanigan, Sask., said one of his neighbours helped him connect with the minister of recreation and sports in the Cuban province of Matanzas. Since then, he's also worked with farmers near Varadero to find people in need and host gatherings.

Reg and Ruth Greve (right) with their neighbour Dave Jones (left) pose with some of the donated equipment. (Supplied by Ruth Greve)

Now when they go to Cuba, the Greves take an interpreter with them to small communities and distribute the equipment themselves.

"We've discovered that the personal contact with the Cubans and the schools and the kids, that is so valuable to us," said Greve. "It just gives you that nice, warm fuzzy feeling."

The whole process had led the Greves to form lasting relationships with people in the country, many of whom don't speak English. 

New baseball leagues have to register with the Cuban government and then the kids are free to play. 

When he got back from his last trip, Greve said he contacted Baseball Saskatchewan, which contacted its association members to encourage them to donate spare uniforms, bats and gloves. 

When people have donations, the couple drives to pick them up. 

So far they've filled one horse trailer and about 20 1.5-metre-wide plastic containers with uniforms, helmets, catcher equipment, bases and gloves. They have multiple 170-litre drums filled with baseball bats. Greve said they are still looking for more shoes and gloves.

Greve is now working to get all the donations to Cuba. He said there is a limited number of flights from Saskatchewan, so it's proving to be a challenge.

Dave Greve (right) and neighbour Dave Jones sift through the donations set to go to Cuba. (Supplied by Ruth Greve)

Some travel agents in Saskatchewan are encouraging customers to take a suitcase full of equipment with them when they go. Then, a friend of Greve's who lives behind the flea market in Varadero collects and stores it.

Greve said he is hoping to find a better way to get everything to Cuba.

Greve said he and his wife want to continue helping people in Cuba, especially in rural and remote areas. 

"When you get there you're looked at as though you're from outer space. When you leave there you're getting hugged and you've got tears from them and everybody is really, really happy and overjoyed with the whole process," said Greve. 

"That is just so rewarding. It makes driving all over Saskatchewan worth it." 

About the Author

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition