World Series champion and former DeSoto Central Jaguar Austin Riley was at Silo Square in Southaven Nov. 23 taking pictures and signing baseballs for the BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE. fundraiser.
Silo Square is selling fresh Christmas trees to raise money for children in the Mid-South community as well as children across the world in impoverished areas. Half of the proceeds are donated to Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center and the other half to orphanages around the planet.
“[Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center is] making a big difference with the child abuse that does go on in our community and trying to put an end to that,” site director Lexie Hill said. “They also do a lot of education services where they teach the community about what to do, how to prevent child abuse and how to report it.”
Riley assisted the fundraising efforts by signing autographs and posing for pictures. The Braves’ third baseman just finished the best season of his career, batting .303 with 33 home runs and 107 RBIs, helping bring a World Series title back to Atlanta for the first time since 1995.
Baseball fans were able to get a personal autographed baseball from Riley in exchange for a minimum donation of $100. There was no minimum donation for a photo with the major leaguer but many generous fans donated anyways.
The queue to meet Riley started forming at 3:00 p.m. with Henry Peraza, who came to get an autographed baseball for his son.
“I came here as soon as I got off work,” Peraza said.
Riley recently took a tour of the Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center and wanted to do something to help support their cause, Hill said. Looking at the long line of young fans, Riley commented that the kids are why he was out at Silo Square.
“For a guy from Southaven, Mississippi, to be where I’m at, if that gives them that little sense of urgency to chase their dreams, that’s what it’s all about,” Riley said.
Every cent from the Silo Square site will be donated. Hill explained that everything there is completely volunteer run and everything has been sponsored.
“No one makes a dollar here,” Hill said.
The BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE. program has raised almost $4 million since it began 10 years ago. Hill said they’re hoping to raise between $150,000 to $200,000.
The site is open seven days a week except for Thanksgiving, but the hours vary by day. Visit www.silosquarems.org for more specific hours of operation. The campaign is scheduled to end Dec. 12 but Hill recommended coming earlier because they could run out of trees.