HEUVELTON — The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is pretty evident in a lot of communities around St. Lawrence County.
For Heuvelton’s Hannah Thornhill, she is very thankful of her community that helped her achieve one of her dreams and passions...to represent her country in international softball.
Thornhill, a junior catcher for Heuvelton Central’s 2014 state finalist softball team, was a member of America’s Team – a touring group that promotes America culture in other counties.
On July 7-15, Thornhill was an ambassador for softball taking a trip to Italy to promote the sport.
“The community support was amazing. The Heuvelton Volunteer Fire Department hosted a chicken barbecue which was a huge success and Ty and Chris Smith from Ogdensburg Bowl hosted a bowling tournament which was a lot of fun,” said Thornhill.
“I wouldn’t trade our small community, family and friends for anything. If it wasn’t for all the generous donations I may not have had this once in a life time opportunity. I just want to thank all of them for making this happen for me.”
The America’s Team stresses teamwork, sportsmanship and competition in life through sports and travel. One of America’s Team’s mottoes is “Changing Lives Through Sports”.
AID SOFTBALL GROWTH
Thornhill, who aspires to be a collegiate softball player, feels softball has a lot of growing to do worldwide. Softball isn’t a major sport in Italy.
“The competition was not what I am used to playing in the states. Their players ranged from age 11 to 50. There is not much interest in softball so they take anyone who wants to play,” Thornhill said.
“That is one of the reasons why we go over and play softball....trying to promote softball, hoping to get it back into the Olympics someday,”
Thornhill, a four-year starter behind the plate for Heuvelton Central, played several positions well showing the versatility which has made her a vital player of her summer AAU team and in off season commitments.
Her team in Italy was very successful.
“We did lose one game but it was to Italy’s National Pro teams. They were very good. I had a great time playing against them and with them,” said Thornhill.
“We played a couple of friendship games and swapped players. I was able to play with the team from Italy and catch for their pitcher. It was fun trying to learn their signs in their language. I had a great time. After the first doubleheader the Italian teams provided us with dinner, music and dancing. They taught us some of their dancing and we did the same thing in return. With our schedule, we didn’t really spend much time with the youth other than playing softball games,”
Thornhill had a lot of time to learn and experience the history of Italy.
“We visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, saw hundreds of statues and sculptures and saw lots of churches. I enjoyed everything about Italy, the history and the stories the tour guides told us were amazing,” noted Thornhill.
“Our tour guide did an incredible job making sure we saw and experienced everything we had time for. He even bought a soccer ball and I played some soccer with him. He took the time to learn how the game of softball is played and even learned how to hit the ball. I am not sure if I really had a favorite historical site but if I had to pick one or two it would be the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum.”
Heuvelton’s all-state performer also made many friendships during her USA Softball ambassador stint and said her team jelled quickly.
“It didn’t take long at all for us to gel as a team. That is an important part of softball, teamwork. I made some new friends and am looking forward to keeping in touch with them and hopefully have a chance to either play with them or against them again some day,” she said.
And the memories Thornhill made will last a lifetime.
“I made lots of memories. I saw historical sites that I most likely would have never had a chance to see, made new friends from all over the United States and had great coaches and an awesome tour guide from Italy. The best thing about my trip was putting on the USA jersey and having the opportunity to represent our Country. Another highlight was to see the faces of the girls from Italy when I gave them my USA jersey after our games. They were just as excited to have a USA jersey as I was. Don’t worry, I did keep one for myself,” chuckled Thornhill.
And she is very thankful for what her community/village has done for softball and all sports.
“I learned a lot about Italy and its culture but most importantly I learned how lucky we are in the United States to have the opportunities that we have and that we take for granted. Their fields are not nearly as nice as ours,” she said.
“Our equipment is so much better and I wonder if they had the fields and equipment that we have in the States maybe there would be more interest in softball in Italy.”
The Lady Bulldog start also appreciated that her family had the chance to witness her amazing opportunity to wear the red, white and blue.
“ It was great having my parents (Andy, Vicki Thornhill) with me, cheering the team on, taking lots of pictures and sharing this experience. I was really happy to have them with me when my flight was canceled in New Jersey on our way home,” she said.
“There was not another flight available for two days. If my parents were not with me, I am not sure I would have known what to do. As it was, we rented a car and came home the next morning.”
Helping Hannah reach her goal of attending the Italy USA Softball trip were: Heuvelton Volunteer Fire Department (Chicken BBQ), Ogdensburg Bowl (No-Tap Bowling Tournament), Teamsters Union, NYS Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, Northern Region, Heuvelton Amvets & Auxiliary, Fun Unlimited, Dr. Edward & Linda Smith, PMHV& Co. CPA’s (Derek VanHouse & Don Hooper), Westons Collision, Inc., Jones Tire, Howland Pump, Mort Backus & Sons, Inc, Town & County Vet Clinic, SLFCU, Blevins, Carlisle Law Firm, No Nonsense Basketball Camp, Softball Umpires, Heuvelton Teacher’s Association, Ogdensburg Kiwanis Softball, Coach Renee Robinson & the Lisbon Central School Girls Softball team, Lake Insurance, Gardner’s, Sue Legacy, Dave & Mel Rishe, Tom & Melanie Cobb, Dick Lesperance, Tom LaRose Sr., Peg Cordwell (in Ben Cordwell’s memory), Dan & Noelle Weidner, Paul & Bonnie Haley, Gary Duvall & Sam Downing, Wally & Doreen Mitchell, Evan & Parker Felt, Mike Fenton (Cold Water Challenge), Tom & Beth Ives, Randy & Tabitha Reynolds, Mr & Mrs. Charlie Pound, Jon & Janey Richards, Jeff & Suzanne Richards, Chip & Michelle Martin, Todd & Maureen McKee, Bob & Debbie Williams, Jimmy & Marianne Bell, Elwyn & Theresa Cougler, John Wilson, James & Jeanne Brady, Jack & Velma Herron, Rev. Dan & Carol Herzog, Tom & Claire Woodside, Anna Hurst, Duke & Suzanne LaRose, Doug & Kathy Marlow, Tom & Charlotte Paro, Ed & Marilyn Coombs, Joe Daniels, Jack Backus, Barb & Jimmy Davis, Sue, Ryan & Adam Bouchey, Mike & Linda Duvall, Mary Jane Rhinebold, Keith & Kathy Pierce, Brian & Karen Martin, Larry Smithers, Parker & Debbie Piercey, Marc Bouchey, Eliza & Nate Pierce, Ken & Char Wilson, Mrs. Nancy Putman, Alfred & Sharon Nichols, Matt & Renee Palmer, Dave & Jean Thornhill, and Rev. Ed & Carolyn LaCombe.