Hundreds of baseball fans of all ages had a chance to meet New York Mets outfielder Carlos Gomez last Wednesday night at Robin Hood Country Day Camp. The up-and-coming athlete was on hand signing autographs and greeting fans during an event intended to increase awareness of the school's sports programs while raising funds for the Long Island chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Robin Hood was founded in 1953 by Paula and Eugene Roberts and, four years later, the couple opened the Robin Hood Country Day School on 15 acres of Old Brookville woods just off Wheatley Road. When Eugene passed away last year, his son, Michael, and sisters Laurie Karol and Kathie Roberts Lieberman, took over the business, which has been a staple in the community for the past 50 years.
From September to June, Robin Hood offers a nursery program for 3- and 4-year-olds, while during the eight weeks of summer it serves as a camp for children ages 3 to 14. Robin Hood attracts children from Nassau and Queens counties and offers arts & crafts, music and nature activities, among others, as well as sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, hockey, football, tennis, lacrosse and swimming. A Guest Coach Program through which local travel coaches volunteer their time to work with kids who are very interested in a specific sport's instruction is also provided.
According to Michael Roberts, the July 11 event, which was open to the public, was intended to bring awareness to the school's sports program while raising money for a good cause. At the same time, it enabled children to meet the New York Mets' up and coming star, which, for most, is a "once in a lifetime opportunity." "I remember when I met Mohammed Ali - I was 7 years old - and soccer player Pele. It was something I will remember my whole life," said Michael. "Meeting a sports idol is huge to a kid and we think Carlos Gomez is going to be the next super hero. Hopefully the kids will remember this forever."
A native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, 21-year-old Gomez made his major league debut with the Mets on May 13 and, in just 42 games, was batting .250 with two homeruns, 11 RBIs and nine stolen bases. During a July 4 road game against the Colorado Rockies, Gomez, who wears #27, broke the hamate bone in his left hand and was placed on the disabled list. He recently underwent surgery and is expected to be back on the field in about four weeks.
Despite the injury, Gomez, who throws and bats right-handed, was still able to sign autographs, to the delight of fans. He told The Westbury Times that although he was experiencing a "little pain" in his right arm, which is currently in a brace, "it felt good to be at the event" and that he was "happy to help kids."
In bringing Gomez to Robin Hood, Roberts joined forces with longtime friend and Woodbury resident Spencer Lader, owner of Authentic Memorabilia LLC - a Great Neck-based company with over 20 years of experience in the memorabilia industry. For Lader, who is involved with various charitable organizations, raising funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association seemed like an appropriate one. In October 2006, his mother, Beverly Lader, lost her life to Lou Gehrig's disease.
"This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. It is one that strikes close to home," he said, adding that owning a sports memorabilia company and raising funds for Muscular Dystrophy seem appropriate, considering the disease took the lives of New York Yankees Lou Gehrig and Catfish Hunter.
"What many people do not realize is how destructible the disease is. So many people, not just those specifically in baseball or sports, have died or lost members of their families," said Lader.
Last week's event attracted some 300 people, both young and old, and raised about $13,000 of which approximately 30 percent will go to the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. According to Lader, what made the event such a success was that it provided healthy kids, many who come from affluent communities, an opportunity to help those who may be less fortunate in terms of health and financial resources. "On behalf of my own family, along with the recipients of the money, it is greatly appreciated," he said.
Eight-year-old Forest Hills resident and Robin Hood camper Sam Vega-Fox said, "It was nice that Carlos Gomez came here and I think it's good that they are using the money raised for a good cause.
His friend, Elliot Goldstein, added, "Yeah! Let's Go Mets! Yankees stink!"
Robin Hood has a 50th anniversary celebration planned Sept. 29 (with a rain date of Sept. 30). Several other celebrity events, including additional player meet-and-greets, are in the works as is a charity event with Hoops for Hope - an organization that collects used and new sneakers for children in Africa. For more information, contact Robin Hood Country Day School at 626-1094. To donate to the Long Island chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, visit www.mda.org or call the school.