It’s a question that haunts many of the people who volunteer for the annual bowl games and other sporting events around the world.
What happens when the equipment they are helping people get to and from their homes becomes a medical waste dump?
“A lot of people have said that they can’t imagine what they would do if it was all thrown away,” said Mark Williams, the president of the United Way of Central America.
“And we’ve been saying the same thing for years, so I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last couple of years.”
The United Way estimates that more than 1.8 million people have used the organization’s services in the past year, including more than a million who donated sports equipment.
But some of those donations have been in the form of hard-to-get items, such as baseball caps, helmets and ponchos.
“It’s a very different feeling to have your gear on your person that’s not being used,” Williams said.
“It’s like a piece of jewelry.”
That was the case for former San Diego Padres pitcher Tim Lincecum, who had a helmet and puffy jacket donated to his son’s college team in Arizona.
Lincecum and his son, who also works as a chef, spent about a week at a game in April.
The team’s fans brought their own gear, and Linceum had to buy a helmet, gloves and a hoodie to wear.
“I thought it was a nice gesture, but the next day when we went back to the hotel, we saw that everyone else had the same kind of thing,” Lincemo said.
“People were still wearing those gloves.
People were wearing that hoodie.
People still had the helmet.”
The San Diego game, held on April 26, is a prime example.
Lince Cumbs son, Austin, played his first game for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The day before the game, Lincem said, his father and other players walked out to take a picture with fans at Dodger Stadium.
Lucas Lincecans son, Will, is the first overall pick in the MLB draft and a player on the Arizona team.
Austin and his wife, Katie, donated their own equipment to make the trip to Arizona.
They said they were so excited to be there that they didn’t know if they were going to have to use it.
“We were like, ‘Wow, we could have used this,'” said Will Lince, who pitched for the Diamondbacks in the American League Championship Series.
“There was no way we were going there, and we had to give it to someone else.
We thought we’d give it back.”
After the game in Phoenix, Luecums son, Dylan, helped out with the team.
He was so excited about getting to go to Arizona that he asked his father if he could wear the helmet.
“He was so grateful, because it meant he could go to the game,” Will Lue said.
But Lince’s son, too, was so impressed that he was able to donate his gear to the team for free.
Luecum said he would have gladly donated his gear if he had known that it would be donated to the charity he worked so hard for.
“You don’t want to be a burden on the people you’re helping,” he said.
Luecms son, Alex, said he is glad that Lincems son donated the gear because it made his trip easier.
“When you see somebody giving back, you’re kind of like, OK, I can do that, too,” he joked.
But it is not the only reason that some people volunteer for these events.
“A huge part of it is because the organizations themselves are giving out equipment, and the teams themselves are trying to figure out ways to use the donations,” Williams added.
The donations can be very meaningful for those in need, but many people don’t realize that their time and effort is not only appreciated but also rewarded.
“So many people do not realize how important their time is when they donate it,” Williams explained.
“If someone gives up a night at home, that’s one thing.
But they can also take their kids to the park and watch the kids play.”
A team member’s name will be printed on the helmet and gloves donated to a child or adult.
“That’s the most important thing for me, and I’m sure many others, is that if you donate something that is not their own, that person will feel like it’s their own and they can be proud of it,” he added.