Troy Farkas, 17, left, poses with Deanna Rivers, who was killed Dec. 1 in a car crash on the Northway. Farkas is collecting used softball and baseball gear in memory of Rivers and donating it to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
CLIFTON PARK A Shenendehowa High School junior has hit on a way to turn his grief over losing a friend into assisting young people who have lived through a natural disaster.
Troy Farkas is helping Deanna Rivers live on by collecting used softball and baseball equipment and gear and donating them to youth leagues in parts of southern New Jersey hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in October. The new foundation he created, Deanna’s Dugout, and will hold four collections this month throughout the Capital Region.
“She loved to play softball. She was always busy because of all the softball stuff going on,” Farkas said of Rivers, who was killed in a Dec. 1 crash on the Northway that also claimed the life of fellow Shen senior Chris Stewart and seriously injured Rivers’ boyfriend, Matt Hardy, and Stewart’s girlfriend, Bailey Wind.
Deanna’s Dugout will be collecting used softball and baseball gear at the following dates and locations:
• April 13, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Clifton Common between fields 9 and 11, Clifton Park.
• April 14, 9 a.m. to noon at Bethlehem Line Drive Park, Delmar Bypass Extension, at Line Drive, Delmar.
• April 20, 9 a.m. to noon at Blatnick Park, River Road, Niskayuna.
A fourth collection is in the process of being scheduled in Latham.
For more information, visit Facebook and search for Deanna’s Dugout.
Second baseman Rivers made fast friends with Farkas, who would frequently hang out with Rivers, Hardy and some other friends.
“She was the stat keeper for my basketball team, so we got close through that,” Farkas said. “I went over to her house a lot. I was really close to her family.”
Farkas, 17, of Halfmoon, was looking for community service to do before his senior year, and worked with Rivers’ family to come up with the idea.
“I was thinking I wanted to help others, to keep Deanna’s name around,” he said. “After I got the idea for collecting the equipment, I was just thinking, ‘Where can this stuff really be used?’ ”
And he thought of Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore communities that were flooded.
“I contacted the commissioner of the leagues down in southern New Jersey,” Farkas said. “He said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’ He was all for it.”
Farkas plans to get the equipment to New Jersey in time for the leagues to get their season started.
Rivers’ parents are backing him in the effort, he said.
“They’ve given me full support through all this.”
Deanna’s Dugout will collect usable gloves, catchers’ gear, uniform pants, youth bats, shoes and batting helmets for any age player.
After getting the equipment, some of Farkas’ friends who have volunteered will clean the items, spray paint some of them and put new grip tape on the bats to freshen them up.
For each collection, Farkas has partnered with local youth baseball or softball leagues.
He has held two small collection drives already — one in Latham and the other in East Greenbush.
Most sports leagues get new equipment every few years, but the old equipment still has some life left in it, Farkas said.
“They’ve probably got a couple sheds full of equipment that they don’t know what to do with anymore.”
Families who have gear around the house are welcome to bring it also.
If Deanna’s Dugout collects more gear that the southern New Jersey leagues need, Farkas plans to donate it to needy leagues in upstate New York, and will accept applications for leagues then, he said.