A girl scout’s passion for baseball has translated into a service project to assist the Upper Keys Little League program.

With the grace of the little league board, Coral Shores senior and girl scout Jessie Vandergriff, is assisting them with a resilience fund as part of her graduating project with the scouts. Part of the goal is to drive down registration costs and other expenses to ensure kids can play despite financial hardships families might be facing, especially in times of a pandemic. 

Vandergriff entered girl scouts in late 2008, which is also when she started playing baseball. Her young playing career, which started with T-ball at age 5, continued through her teenage years up to her freshman year playing for the Coral Shores High School softball team. 

Many of Vandergriff’s baseball seasons were spent under the tutelage of coach Brian Tiedemann. Not only did he coach her through swings, but Tiedemann and Herb Tiedemann, Brian’s dad, also assisted her with service project ideas that included new bullpens at Harry Harris Park. New ones were installed in March 2020 with help from donors, Monroe County Parks and Robert Glassmer and local businesses.

As for her current project, Vandergriff said she’s getting the word out in hopes that businesses in the community will help the league and her establish a resilience fund. Initial talks surrounded the idea for a hurricane fund. With the league affected last year by the pandemic, it evolved into something further. 

“The board seemed to like the idea of a resiliency fund,” Vandergriff said. “They gave their approval of the project, so now it’s about raising awareness and securing certain donations from businesses.”

Vandergriff added that she’s hoping to get at least 10 sponsors onboard by March 5, which is the UKLL’s opening night. 

Ryan Raschein, Upper Keys Little League board chair, said Vandergriff’s project means a lot to the league as it will help push down registration and equipment costs. Roughly 250 kids have signed up for the 2021 little league season, he said. Of all leagues, T-ball, which was free this year, saw the largest number of registrants.

New bullpens installed at Harry Harris Park. CONTRIBUTED

“Registration is one of the biggest things. The more we can fundraise, the lower registration fees and uniform expenses will be,” he said. “Jessie’s helped the little league in the past and wants to continue helping us, and that’s huge. It’s her own drive and helping out the league and this great game.”

Vandergriff hasn’t conducted service projects just for baseball. A junior library program at Key Largo Library and a drive to collect school supplies for a town in the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan are other projects Vandergriff completed during her time as a girl scout.

Those wishing to sponsor can write a check to the Upper Keys Little League and note “resiliency fund” on the remark line or via note that’s enclosed with the check. They can also visit ukll.org and click on “sponsor” under the “UKLL” tab. For more info, visit ukll.org.

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