Six East County students build a mobile donation bin to collect equipment for the Miracle League of Manasota.
When Izzy Rines waits at first base for the softball to fly toward her, she can't focus on anything other than catching the ball.
"Playing softball is a great way to work as a team," Rines said. "And it's fun."
The seventh-grader at Braden River Middle has played softball for more than seven years as part of the Miss Manatee Softball League. Now she wants to ensure other children are able to play, too.
Rines worked with five other Braden River students — Imran Sandhu, Fiorella Recchioni. Sean Davis, Alex Perren and Matej Rodrigues — to build a donation bin for the Miracle League of Manasota, which provides a field for children with special needs to play baseball.
"I don't want any child to not play a sport because they're different," Rines said.
The students worked on the blue, plywood mobile bin from late October until early January.
They crafted the project as part of a Construction Challenge for the annual TSA State Conference held Feb. 24 through Feb. 27.
"What I really loved about the project is that the kids came up with the idea on their own," said Kyle Holbrook, engineering technology teacher and lead TSA advisor at Braden River Middle. "Their parents didn't tell them they should do it. They just built this bin because they wanted to."
Rines knew about the Miracle League through Miss Manatee Softball and she pitched the idea to her classmates.
Three of the team members, Rines, Rodrigues and Perren, presented the bin to the Miracle League's board of directors Feb. 20.
"You could tell they were grateful" Perren said.
The bin has wheels so it can be moved to different baseball and softball fields throughout Manatee County to collect monetary and supply donations for the Miracle League.
Prior to the construction of the bin, the Miracle League had occasionally solicited on social media for donations. But Rines said it appeared the organization had given up on that technique.
"People might not want to go up to a stranger and hand them donations," Rines said. "The bin takes away that nervousness or awkwardness."
So far, the bin has generated dozens of baseball bats, gloves and other supplies, and $50 in donations, Rines said, proudly.
The first week the bin was stationed at Lakewood Ranch Park, Rines and her father, Mike, had to empty the bin three times. Rines plans to move the bin every few weeks, with the permission of leagues around the two counties.
For now, it's in her garage, while she waits for the OK for its next location.
"What I like about this project is that it shows one organization (TSA) can help another (softball and baseball teams) help another organization," Rines' mother, Heather, said. "Each of those organizations is helping to do something good for our community and working together makes it even better."