Elliot Mast has a burning desire to make a difference in his young world, and he's using his favorite sport - baseball - as a means of accomplishing that difference.
The 11-year-old Altoona youngster, who is a member of the Caporuscio's Plumbing and Heating team in the East End Little League, is hoping that he can pitch and hit his way this summer into generating hundreds of dollars in support for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation's Give to Children and Child Life Programs, which aid and assist ill children and their families during hospital stays.
After belting 14 homers in last summer's East End League Home Run Derby, Elliot - who plays pitcher, catcher and first baseman - established goals of donating $10 for every home run he hits this season, $2 for every hit he accomplishes, and $5 for every strikeout that he records as a pitcher.
Elliot is hoping to raise the money through the allowance he gets from his parents, Don and Angelina Mast, for completing household chores, as well as through future planned door-to-door T-shirt sales, company sponsorships, and his Internet website blog, www.elliotmast.blogspot.com - which has given his cause nationwide exposure and has already helped him generate $300 in donations from as far away as the state of Colorado.
"I want to raise as much money as possible, and I just hope I can inspire other kids around the country to do the same thing in their communities,'' said Elliot, a fifth-grader who is cyber-instructed by the Pittsburgh-based Pennsylvania Learners School, which conducts live classes on the Internet. "I'm actually looking for sponsors right now, and I've sent letters to different local businesses to donate to the cause. [Interested donors] can also visit my blog.''
Born with a club foot that was surgically corrected at infancy at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, Elliot chose the hospital for his philanthropic mission. Elliot has been vigorously supported in his cause by his parents, Don Mast, 34, and Angelina Mast, 36.
How to help
Monetary donations (checks preferred) can be sent to:
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation
c/o Elliot Mast
1230 22nd Ave.
Altoona, Pa. 16601
Craft and pen pal letters can be sent to:
Ms. Shannon M. Anglero
Elliot's Craft Campaign For Child Life
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation
1251 Waterfront Place Floor 5
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222
"My son was helped by the hospital in a way that he wants to give back,'' said Don Mast, who is employed as a district manager for the Coca-Cola company's Ebensburg branch. "The kids who are in the hospital are going through things that are scary, and [Elliot] wants them to know there are other kids that care about them.''
While playing baseball last summer in both the East End League and as a member of that league's traveling all-star team, as well as in the Extra Innings Baseball Academy last fall, Elliot struck out 105 batters in 58 innings, cracked eight home runs, and carded a .475 batting average in over 60 games.
It was last fall, after watching a commercial about major league baseball star Curtis Granderson's community contributions, that Elliot became inspired to do the same type of thing, and chose Pittsburgh Children's Hospital as his beneficiary. If Elliot can put up the same type of personal numbers on the field this year that he did last year, his cause will do well quite well.
"His stats last year would have enabled him to raise over 200 dollars, and 200 dollars was his original goal by this season's [April 24 Little League] Opening Day,'' Don Mast said. "Now his goal is much bigger.''
Along with his blog, Elliot's Facebook and Twitter pages have given his cause national exposure. Among the youngster's champions has been major league relief pitcher Jason Grilli, who has used his business website, Wild Pitch Marketing, to promote Elliot's quest.
The Fox Sports Network television baseball show Kid Pitch, which airs each Sunday morning - and for which Elliot recently interviewed top major league pitching propsect Steven Strasburg during Strasburg's appearance at Blair County Ballpark - has also been promoting Elliot's cause.
"People have really come out to show their support,'' Don Mast said.
Don and Angelina - who is a self-employed businessperson - have always stressed to Elliot, an only child, the importance of thinking of others.
"It's always been important to me, and I think I've instilled in him the importance of giving back,'' Angelina said.
The donations Elliot generates for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation's Give To Children Program - whose website is www.Givetochildren.org - will supply ill children with games, toys and activities during their hospital stays. Craft item donations for the children and their families - items which include but are not limited to, pencils, crayons and magazines - as well as pen pal letters for the kids, are also being sought and generated through Elliot's efforts.
Among Elliot's biggest fans is an eight-year-old boy who is currently battling brain cancer.
Shannon Anglero, who is collecting the crafts and pen pal letters in her job as associate director of special events for the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, applauded Elliot's altruism.
"I think it's really great that someone of Elliot's age is trying to go out and raise funds for kids his age,'' she said on the Wild Pitch Marketing website. "He is learning a wonderful lesson of how one person's impact can have on other people.''
It's a lesson that Elliot has already learned quite well.
"The hospital helped me a lot, so I just want to give back,'' he said.