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Bar mitzvah boy substitutes party for tikun olam

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Shea Schnoor

Put the band on hold. Tell the photographer and the caterer their services are not needed. This bar mitzvah is heading south – but in a good way.

Instead of the no-holds-barred party that is common in many bar and bat mitzvahs these days, Shea Schnoor is taking a path less travelled. In April, he and his family will be packing their bags – and their baseball gear – and heading to a remote region of Colombia, to bring baseball to an impoverished rural community.

They will spend a week in the province of Choco, one of the poorest areas of Colombia, which borders on the Pacific Ocean. There, Shea will coach the baseball-loving locals, while also outfitting them in gently used gear that’s being shipped from Toronto.

Schnoor’s bar mitzvah baseball adventure is a tikun olam (repair the world) project that combines the desire to help others with Schnoor’s love of the sport. It is being organized through Project Beisbol, a non-profit organization founded by American Justin Halladay that is dedicated to helping vulnerable youths in Latin America by providing baseball and softball equipment and instruction.

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Schnoor, a Grade 7 student at the Montessori Jewish Day School in Toronto, is a first baseman with the Thornhill Reds. Baseball is his passion, so when it came time to plan his bar mitzvah, he and his dad, Randal Schnoor, searched for ways to give back to others, while exploring other cultures and creating a memorable experience.

That’s how they found Project Beisbol, Randal Schnoor told The CJN. “This was a perfect match for us. It combined travel to an interesting part of the world, baseball and charity,” he said. “I see it as a cultural exchange. Meet the kids, spend time with them.”

Shea said that he thinks “it’s a really good way of giving back to the community, to a low-income community.… I think it will be a great experience.”

The project has two components, Shea and his dad explained. One involves collecting baseball equipment and shipping it to Colombia. They’ve already sent 55 kg of gear to that South American country, including cleats, gloves, helmets and baseball bags.

“A lot of the kids don’t even have shoes,” Randal Schnoor said.

In addition, the family has purchased 30 jerseys, half with Toronto colours and the other half sporting Canadian red.

“With the jerseys, they’ll feel like a team,” Randal Schnoor added.

Meanwhile, Shea has raised $1,200 in donations for the baseball program in Choco.

For the Schnoors, it’s likely language will not be a barrier to their South American experience. Shea’s mother, Marsha Moshinsky, hails from Mexico and Shea grew up hearing Spanish spoken in their home.

The first week of their two-week adventure will be spent in Mexico, where Shea will visit with his mother’s side of the family. Then it’s off to Colombia to repair the world, or at least teach the intricacies of the squeeze play, or the hit and run.

After their return, Shea will continue preparing for his bar mitzvah service, which will be held in June and won’t be followed by an extravagant evening event.

“I’d rather do the trip than the party,” Shea said. “The trip is helping people. I’m doing it for tikun olam.”

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