(Originally published in the Telegraph on 6/29/08)
BETHALTO — One lucky Bethalto preteen has earned himself an all-expenses-paid trip to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in New York City.
Lukas Jones, 11, is a member of Boys and Girls Club of Bethalto whose courteous behavior and leadership skills led Executive Director Kathleen Wilson and Program Director Tad Middleton to nominate him for the S.T.A.R. award, sponsored by Major League Baseball and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Wilson and Middleton assisted Lukas in writing four short essays on the topics of sportsmanship, team spirit, achievement and responsibility, which then were submitted for the award. Out of all children entered in the 12-state region, Lukas was chosen to represent the Midwest, Wilson said. He will join five other children — four from other regions of the United States and one selected from U.S. military bases — to the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York City and other MLB events from Saturday, July 12, to Wednesday, July 16.
The St. Louis Cardinals mascot, Fredbird, visited the Boys and Girls Club of Bethalto at 3 p.m. Tuesday to surprise Lukas and his family with the good news. Lukas took home a Cardinals cap and jersey, as well as a trophy honoring his achievement.
“It’s the most I’ve seen him smile in the years I’ve known him,” Wilson said.
Lukas has proven himself to be a great help to the club staff by setting up activities, gathering teams for tournaments and running the game clock, Wilson said.
“Whenever we need something done, he’ll come in and volunteer in the office,” Wilson said.
“He’s like an extension of the staff in that he’s helpful and brings people together,” Middleton said.
Lukas’ fair treatment of others established him as a leader among his peers.
“It goes beyond him not being a troublemaker; he really sets an example for other kids,” Wilson said. “He’s mature for his age. He’ll intervene when other kids are cheating.”
Calling Lukas shy is an understatement.
“He’s one of these kids that you wouldn’t even notice that he’s around most of the time. He’s very quiet, very shy,” Wilson said.
But his soft-spoken demeanor increases the importance of every word he says.
“When he needs to say something, it’s going to be the right words,” Middleton said.
Lukas values good sportsmanship and assisting others who become injured.
“If the other team loses, you should come talk to them and say, ‘Good game,’” he said. “If someone gets hurt, I’ll tell a staff member.”
The Boys and Girls Club is Lukas’ usual after-school hangout.
“He’s here just about every weekday,” said Layla Jones, his mother. “They’re closed on the weekends — otherwise, he would be here then, too.”
Along with winning himself a short vacation, Lukas won the Bethalto club a $10,000 grant.
“The $10,000 is pretty exciting, but I’m so excited for this kid, I can hardly stand it,” Wilson said.
Wilson is not yet sure how the club will use the funds.
“We have not even begun to think about that. We have this long list of things that we could use it for,” she said. She said the club might “buy major equipment or run a new program.”
Jones hopes first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielder Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals, his two favorite players, will be selected for the All-Star game so he can meet them in New York.