SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Tammy and Toby Gilliland were coming to the Little League World Series to watch their son Troy play.
That was never a question.
But before they left Columbus last week, they received what both called “a blessing.”
The assist came from St. Francis Hospital, where Tammy has worked for three years as a nurse educator.
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“They paid all of our travel expenses and motel,” Tammy Gilliland said.
While Little League pays all of the expenses for the teams and the coaches, the parents are on their own when it comes to finding their way more than 900 miles from Columbus to Pennsylvania. Parents and family members are also responsible for their own housing, which can be as much as $200 a night for a single hotel room.
The trip for a couple could easily exceed $3,500 if a team stays the full 10 days. And this Columbus Northern team is on the right road for a lengthy stay in Williamsport. Northern won its opening game Saturday 6-2 over Hawaii and will play at 6 p.m. today against Ohio, the Great Lakes Region champion. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Northern Little League is currently raising money to help offset the travel expenses for the families. They have been soliciting donations on the league’s website, www.northernll.org, through PayPal and have been making calls to get corporate donations.
Four years ago, Northern raised more than $100,000 when the Little Leaguers won the World Series title. But that was a much different situation and not as much money will be needed. That Northern team spent weeks on the road in Augusta and Gulfport, Fla., before it ever qualified for the World Series. This year, Northern played the state tournament in Columbus and the Southeast Regional was in Warner Robins, a short drive that did not require the hotel stays playing just outside St. Petersburg, Fla., did.
Northern Little League Vice President Clay Duncan said the fundraising is progressing.
“I don’t know the exact number, but I can tell you we are a little behind,” Duncan said Sunday.
Duncan said the goal is to offset all of the family travel costs, but admitted it might be difficult in these economic times.
“Anything with money is hard right now,” Duncan said.
The other night some players from Northern teams not in Williamsport took up donations outside Carmike Cinemas. They raised about $650.
“We appreciate anything we can get,” Duncan said.
Four years ago, St. Francis donated to the Northern fundraising campaign, but did not have anyone connected to the team.
This time, it was different.
And the Gillilands were the ones who benefited.
“I heard we had one of our associates who had a son on the team,” St. Francis Chief Executive Officer Robert Granger said. “I was watching the Southeastern Regional and they showed the parents and I saw Tammy. I knew who it was then.”
Helping the Gillilands felt like the right thing to do, said Granger, a father with a daughter who played traveling softball.
“We didn’t want them to have to worry about money,” he said. “We just wanted them to go enjoy it.”
Toby Gilliland is a minister of music and education at Gentian Baptist Church.
“We were blessed,” Toby Gilliland said.
Tammy Gilliland had some recent surgery that would have made driving from Columbus to Pennsylvania difficult.
“I am just very thankful for their support,” she said.