W.F. Burns welcomes Beauregard in postponed doubleheader

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

VALLEY — Wednesday afternoon was about more than a junior high baseball doubleheader at Crestview Field.

The students and players from the W.F. Burns baseball team welcomed Sanford Middle School from Beauregard as the team’s bus came in with balloons, signs and wristbands that read “Rams for the Gard” and “Beauregard Strong.”

“I started off with something very small, but like the Valley community, they made it big,” W.F. Burns principal Frankie Bell said. “We just came together, the parents and said ‘let’s try this’ and ‘let’s try that,’ and we executed it brilliantly. The parents came together, the kids came together, both schools came together.”

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The local middle school hosted a talent show recently where the funds went to a check that was given to the Sanford baseball team before the first pitch on Wednesday. The check was for Beauregard junior catcher Peyton Whatley, who lost his home and his grandmother Vicki Braswell during the tornado.

W.F. Burns also had some additional hands helping in the welcoming efforts.

“The high school kids, as well as the administration, because Mr. Casey Chambley has been here from the beginning trying to help us making sure everything is correlated between both schools,” Bell said. “When you have both schools coming together, then you can’t help but have an awesome experience. I was so touched when I watched the high school team out there, they don’t have a game today, make sure that the field and everything were prepared for my boys. It took a lot of us coming together as a community, and that’s how it happened.”

The March 3 natural disaster killed 23 people, which is the deadliest tornado in the country since May 2013 in Oklahoma, in a tornado that killed 24 people. The devastating effects made national news and even prompted a visit from President Donald Trump, but the victims are still being helped now.

“It’s still the same,” Codi McLeod, mother of Sanford eighth-grade baseball player Riley McLeod, said. “Everyone’s still sticking together, giving donations and helping out. I leave my house every morning to hear chainsaws going at 6:30 in the morning, and then coming home when they’re people who are still cutting down trees at 7:00 at night.”

McLeod is also thankful for the efforts that she’s seen from nearby communities like Valley.

“It was very sweet pulling up and seeing the balloons,” she said. “It really touches the heart to see every other school come together to help.”

Bell said that she and her husband personally knew so many of the victims that they had to split up who would attend each funeral, including Bell’s nine-year-old cousin who passed away.

“It was hard to watch his mom, my cousin, bury her son,” Bell said. “It is an imprint to me because little kids lost their lives. It’s always hard when there’s a loss, but when so many children are lost, if you’re a person who God called us to be, it impacts you in a way that changes you, hopefully for the better.”

The acts of W.F. Burns were just the latest that Valley has been involved with since the Lee County tornado. Two semi tractor-trailer trucks of supplies were filled to send to the victims days after the tornado, and the varsity baseball team at Valley High School were a part of the game at Opelika High School where all of the ticket sales went to help the victims.

“We know what it feels like to struggle,” Bell said. “We know what it feels like to be without. In a community like this, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, they just have love as you’ve never experienced. I’ve been at a lot of places, but since I’ve been here for almost five years there’s nothing but love in this place.”