(photo courtesy of the Colorado Rockies)

As Major League Baseball is preparing for its All-Star Game festivities in the Mile High City, UMPS CARE thought it was time to shine the spotlight on our own Denver All-Stars. 

UMPS CARE has a strong footprint in the Denver area, which is home to two members of the All-Star Game umpiring crew, two college scholarship recipients and hundreds of program participants and will be the site of a hospital visit this month. 

MLB Umpire Chris Guccione, an UMPS CARE board member who makes his home in Denver, has been named to the All-Star Game crew, along with Adam Hamari, who also calls Denver home. 

We are proud to say that all of the All-Star crew members have taken time out to support our programs. CB Bucknor recently made a special video for young patients undergoing hospital treatment in New York and participated in Zoom calls with teens at the DREAM Charter School in The Bronx. Lance Barrett has participated in many on-field events and hospital visits as has crew chief Tom Hallion. Dave Rackley has played an instrumental role on our college scholarship committee, helping select the recipients and refine the application process. 

Leading up to the All-Star Game in Denver, UMPS CARE is hosting a delivery of 100 Build-A-Bears, outfits, baseball activity books and crayons, bringing joy to young patients undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital Colorado. MLB Umpire and Crew Chief Paul Emmel, who makes his home in the Denver area (and serves as secretary of UMPS CARE) will be joining us for the hospital visit to help make the in-person deliveries. 

This event marks the 176th delivery of Build-A-Bears® to kids in hospitals since UMPS CARE created its BLUE for Kids hospital program in 2006. UMPS CARE is proud to have distributed more than 17,500 Build-A-Bears® to kids across the country and in Canada for this program.

“All of us at UMPS CARE are so excited to be able to see the joy in these young patients again,” said Jennifer Skolochenko-Platt, Executive Director at UMPS CARE Charities. “These kids and families will have a blast meeting some of the umpires and getting a little taste of the All-Star Game right at their hospital bed. We are so grateful to the staff at Children’s Hospital Colorado for helping us coordinate what is sure to be a grand slam for these kids and their parents.”

UMPS CARE wants to thank longtime partners at Eisai for their financial and volunteer support for this program. Representatives from Eisai will join us for this visit and employees took time out of their busy schedules to package goody bags for the young patients in the hospital. 

Two of our All-Star College Scholarship recipients also live in Denver. Josh Perrin, who grew up in Boulder, earned his college degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder thanks to his UMPS CARE scholarship funds. UMPS CARE provides $10,000 per year ($40,000 total) to children who were adopted later in life to help defray the financial burdens of receiving a college education. We are proud to say that Josh is now working as a Architectural Designer at Davis Partnership Architects. MLB Umpire Jeff Nelson and the Colorado Rockies recently helped make it possible for Josh, his aunt (who adopted him), sister, girlfriend and grandfather, to enjoy a Rockies game. 

Meanwhile, Vitalik Walle, who grew up in an orphanage in Ukraine and was adopted by a Denver family, was named our 2019 All-Star College Scholarship recipient and is a student at Colorado Christian University. Vitalik has been mentored by MLB Umpire Todd Tichenor and his wife, Kelly, throughout his college journey. 

I haven’t had the chance to meet Kelly yet, but I got the privilege of meeting Todd (at a Rockies game),” Vitalik said. “We had a great time at the game! I’m so thankful for the great support family that has been provided to me by UMPS CARE. It was such a great experience visiting Todd and the other umps in the Umpires waiting room and we loved the official MLB baseballs they gave us.”

Katherine Atkins, is another scholarship recipient of ours. She is not from Denver, but one of her mentors, Amy Guccione (wife of MLB Umpire Chris Guccione) is. Amy played a key role during Katherine’s time at Appalachian State (Katherine graduated from college in May!) 

Amy and Katherine also bonded over career interests. Amy has a master’s degree in public health and worked in health care as a nurse practitioner. Katherine recently was hired as a Direct Sales Producer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. 

“It really felt like having a pen pal,” Amy explained. “The scholarship money is really helpful but really, it’s about the human connection. The point of being a mentor is to guide them on their own path, and there is a coming together on that path,” she added. “The beauty of the mentorship is that both people come out stronger.”

Speaking of the Gucciones, Chris played a key role in raising awareness for umpires in youth sports and how difficult it is to limit abuse from parents, coaches and fans. As many might recall in 2019, a 13-year-old was umpiring a game for 7-years-olds in Lakewood, Colorado, when parents started brawling. The brawl was captured on video and went viral. 

Chris happened to be working a Rockies game shortly afterward, and he and his crew invited Josh and his family as special guests. 

“I thought it was a perfect opportunity to reach out to him and not just to him, but his family and just say, ‘Hey I’m proud of you! I’m rooting for you, and what you did is the right thing,” Chris told reporters.

Over the years UMPS CARE has hosted many youth-based organizations and military families to meet MLB Umpires before games through our BLUE Crew Ticket Program. Started in 2006, this program has engaged close to 8,000 participants across the country and includes game-day tickets, VIP field access, goody bags and money for a meal at the ballpark. 

This past Fourth of July weekend, UMPS CARE celebrated veterans who participated in the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy. Mike Galley, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Army, and his family got the chance to go to Coors Field, received a goody bag and a signed baseball from the MLB Umpire crew. The following day, he and his family had lunch with MLB Umpire Paul Emmel.

All of us at UMPS CARE are thrilled to have such a strong All-Star team here in Denver and are excited to celebrate America’s game in Colorado!