It's a small world after all. Lucas Halstead and Hunter Kilbourn can certainly attest to that.
One little coincidence brought together the high school baseball player and the young victim of a brutal dog attack -- Halstead's mom is Hunter's fourth-grade teacher.
Halstead took the happy coincidence one step further by pledging to raise money to help pay for Hunter's extensive medical bills.
"Lucas is awesome and super nice," Hunter said of his new buddy. "I was happy and surprised because I didn't know he was going to (raise money)." The story started in August when 10-year-old Hunter, of Martinez, was attacked by two pit bulls at the home of some friends he was visiting in Antioch. The dogs partially severed Hunter's ear and left him with severe lacerations and bite marks on his face, head and back.
While Hunter was recovering from surgeries to repair damage, Halstead was competing with other high school baseball players to be part of the eighth annual International Power Showcase, a baseball event that highlights up-and-coming athletes.
Halstead, a senior at Danville's Monte Vista High School, was ultimately chosen to take part in the event. It was only after he was selected that he learned of the event's Home Run Derby that gives each young athlete a chance to raise money for a favorite charity.
"It's a big scouting event for professional teams," Halstead said of the Power Showcase. "To add in the whole charity and for a good cause really puts it above and beyond. It's a blessing in disguise."
As Halstead was learning more about the Power Showcase, his mom, Kelly, found out that Hunter would be in her fourth-grade class at Morello Park Elemenary School in Martinez. As she told her family about the brave little boy who's overcome so much trauma, her son realized he had the perfect opportunity to help Hunter.
"I said, 'You know what. I'm going to do it for Hunter,' " Halstead said. "I'm going to raise money for his medical expenses. Not only does he like baseball, which is just the coolest thing, but he thinks the fact that I'm doing this is cool. I felt like I have a good cause for Hunter."
The Home Run Derby challenges student athletes to raise money for charity through its Home Runs That Help program. Each athlete will be pitched 10 balls by a mechanical pitcher. Athletes earn money for charity based on how many home runs they hit -- any ball that makes it over the fence. Most athletes hit four to six home runs, based on previous events.
"I'm just hoping for the best," Halstead said. "Hopefully, my performance will reflect that." The Power Showcase will be held Jan. 2-5 at Marlin Park in Miami, home of the Miami Marlins baseball team. The event highlights 130 of the world's best young baseball players from all across America and 20 different countries. The showcase features an All-World/All-American Baseball Classic game. This is the first year a fundraising component has been included.
"It's fun for the boys, but it's also to do community service for a good cause," mom Kelly Halstead said. "For me, it makes it more special for my son to do something more than to visit the Marlins stadium, but also to help someone at home." "He worked so hard," she continued. "He's so dedicated. He's so into baseball. For him to be able to have this opportunity to help someone is a really cool deal. I'm really impressed with the whole situation." Hunter's mom, Melody Ralls, is touched by Halstead's eagerness to help her son.
"It's extremely sweet and kind," Ralls said. "They genuinely do care about Hunter. It kind of hits close to home and it makes it special. There have been a lot of fundraisers and all of them have been amazing, but this one hits home a little bit." Hunter is recovering physically from his wounds, but he suffers from anxiety due to the attack. He faces more surgery late next year as his wounds and skin grafts heal. Halstead hopes to raise at least $3,000 to help with Hunter's medical expenses, including a high-tech scar-reduction tape that's not covered by surgery.
"A lot of money we've gotten from fundraisers is used for that kind of thing (like the tape) and to help Hunter out," Ralls explained.
Halstead, a catcher, is looking forward to his trip to Florida and the chance to play baseball in a major league stadium.
"Being invited to the event itself was a dream come true," he said. "In Major League Baseball right now, a bunch of the players who are younger have done this event. It was such a shock to get invited. Once I learned about the charity, it made it that much better. It gave me an opportunity to help Hunter."
"For Lucas, he's learning so much more about community service, helping others, having compassion," his mom, Kelly, added. "It's good for him to learn that it's important to help others. It's bigger than baseball."
Donations may be made as follows: single, $25 donation plus $5 per home run (maximum $50); double, $50 donation plus $5 per home run (maximum $75); triple, $75 donation plus $5 per home run (maximum $100); home run, $100 donation plus $5 per home run (maximum $125); grand slam, any fixed donation of $150 or greater. Or a flat donation of any amount may be made. Email pledges for donations to firstname.lastname@example.org. Donors will be contacted after the event with payment details. Visit Halstead's Power Showcase profile page at http://bit.ly/1iEmJxh.