Volunteers Doing: Hitting A Home Run With His Time

Baseball can influence your life in so many ways and for Tom Hutchison baseball influenced volunteering. Much of Tom’s volunteering revolves around baseball although not all of it.

But baseball was the beginning. {{more}} Tom recalls as a child, being raised by his grandparents in Levittown, Long Island, New York, his grandmother began a handicap baseball league. “She would see the siblings of kids playing and felt they should have a chance to play,” he explained. She started the league when Tom was about 7 years old and he and his brother helped.

His grandmother was a true inspiration not only in baseball but in her caring of others. “We had lots of stray dogs and cats. My grandmother would take them in and feed them. She would use an eye dropper to feed the kittens and then they would follow her around. She became their mother,” Tom said proudly.

As an adult and moving to Orange, Tom and his wife, Jacki, became involved with the Church of the Good Shepherd. Tom and Jacki and their kids would help with the shelter suppers. Now, with his kids being older, Tom finds it more difficult to find the time to volunteer, which is why he decided to get involved with Orange Little League.

“I started coaching in 2005 so this is my 10th year coaching,” he said. “My favorite thing is running the T-Ball clinic. I try to make Little League fun so the kids want to come back. I have three expectations: hustle, have fun and improve. If every player has done that at the end of the season, it was successful. I tell the kids, the best team doesn’t always win, the team that plays the best wins.”

Outside the baseball diamond, you can find Tom and Jacki volunteering in the Orange schools. Tom, a founding member of the Turkey Hill Father’s Club, explains that Jacki was the one who really deserves the credit. She and friend Phyllis Kraut were approached by then principal, Colleen Murray, about starting a Father’s Club. “Jacki came home and told me I was a member of the Father’s Club,” he said with a chuckle. The rest, as they say, is history. “Our first meeting was myself, Bill Kraut, Rich Zorena and David Pretlove. What’s great is today all the school’s have Father’s Clubs and they are all doing so much from golf tournaments to wine tastings to pancake breakfasts.” The money raised has been used to buy Smart Boards, COWS (computers on wheels) and build the track at Turkey Hill. Turkey Hill’s Father’s Club was the impetus for implementation of Smart Boards district wide.

Tom also serves on the Yale Baseball Alumni Association and is involved with interviewing prospective Yale students. He mentors new employees with Merrill Lynch where he works as Sr. Vice-President – Investments and is chair of the Board of the Northeast Baseball School (NBS), a not for profit organization whose philosophy on baseball is “to help every organizational member commit to the daily practices of volunteerism, respect, goal setting, teamwork, sportsmanship, and skill development.”

As a family, Tom explained that for 10 years, they would visit the cancer wing at Stony Brook Hospital. This began after Jacki’s cousin passed away from cancer at the age of 16. “I would dress as Santa, the kids as elves and we would bring gifts to those at the hospital.” As part of their charitable work, Tom set up the Gogga Fund through the New Haven Community Fund. The Gogga Fund is named for his grandmother. “It came from ‘goo-goo gogga’ but that was too long so we shortened it to Gogga,” he explained. Each year, the family decides where to send a donation. Donations have been made to the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, both of which had a connection to someone in their family.

“For me, the volunteering I do doesn’t feel like work, it is enjoyable. With the Father’s Club it is more social and I have met a lot of dads through it,” he said, adding “I like that we raise money locally and can see the direct impact it has especially when my kids come home and say ‘we used the Smart Board today’ or ‘we ran on the track today’.”

“Everybody is busy and it is another thing to do, so I have tried to selectively pick what I know I can do and have it be rewarding. I feel like there are a lot of people in Orange doing a lot of great things.”