Meet Lou Bernardi Who Is On A Special Mission 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

KINGS POINT, N.Y. — If there ever was a poster boy for helping others during this difficult time, it would be Lou Bernardi.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit a year ago, the pitching coach at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has spent a staggering amount of personal time helping those in need.

During the holiday season last November and December, it wasn’t unusual for him to fill up the gas tank of his car 4-5 times a week and drive over 1,000 miles to make sure front line workers in all areas of New York received thousands of meals.

Those meals went to doctors and nurses, firefighters and EMTs and police officers throughout the state of New York as he said thank you to all of these people who are his heroes.

In the past year, Bernardi estimates that well over 5,000 meals have been donated to first responders through his organization called Valor Sports which is comprised of a small group of baseball coaches who volunteer to help others.

The big payoff for him and his volunteer team are the warm smiles from everyone they meet who become life-long friends.

There are many people who have been touched by this remarkable man, including disadvantaged youth as his group orchestrated a drive to have 500 toys donated to Toys For Tots. His group has also helped the Boys and Girls Club as well as the Food Bank.

“We started our volunteer group about a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” said Bernardi.

“Our baseball season was cancelled at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and it gave me an opportunity to help people in New York.

“I felt it was important to thank those people who were really doing something remarkable and special. I wanted those front line workers to know how special they were because they were putting their lives on the line going to work every day.

“I looked at the horrible situation that the pandemic had caused and acted.”

The pandemic has currently taken the lives of 540,640 Americans.

In the state of New York, 1.7 million have contracted the virus while 48,726 have died. New York has the second highest death total of any state in the US.

“I wanted to use my platform to try and create some good in my community.

“It’s been amazing. We did a huge food fundraiser for Thanksgiving. One thing led to another which led to another in this quest to help people in my great state of New York.

“It has given me a newfound glory by just helping others.”

Bernardi said he has teamed up with numerous organizations and foundations to make this happen.

“I am really proud of the small group of baseball coaches who work with me. We all have a similar passion of giving back and helping others. What separates us from others is our commitment to our community.

“We have a commitment to help baseball players but also give back and support a much larger cause than just baseball.

“Restaurants have donated thousands of meals. Prior to the Super Bowl, we ran a huge PPE (personal protective equipment) drive where we handed out 1,000 masks and 800 bottles of hand sanitizers so people could have safe Super Bowl parties.

“During Thanksgiving, we teamed up with a local food bank and fed 500 people in the city of Glen Cove, N.Y.

“We stopped by 11 different police precincts to give meals to these amazing people and 6 different hospitals. We have gone to 5 different Boys and Girls Clubs and helped with the Special Olympics. In addition, we have gone to numerous fire houses. If I were to write down a list of organizations we have helped or partnered with, it has to be over 20.”

Bernardi said his team of volunteer baseball coaches spends countless hours calling up businesses to secure donations.

“I am very fortunate to have a very good support staff in my home town. Our network is very strong. It includes restaurants and bar owners along with a number of organizations. They pony up. All of them strongly believe in what we are doing and want to be involved.

“The value of the mission and cause is greater than the value of the food or supplies.

“There have easily been more than $10,000 worth of food, masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and toys donated by these amazing people.”

Bernardi explained what a typical week is like for him as he balances his job as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with his passion for helping his fellow man.

“My job at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is very important. I take great pleasure in helping pitchers get better and recruiting quality student-athletes.

“Nobody should ever use time as an excuse not to do something they have passion for. Every single minute is a blessing. If I have a minute where I can go and thank somebody for their service or help support someone or volunteer and lend a helping hand for one of these organizations I work with, I will make time for it.

“If I can possibly be somewhere to help, I want to be there.

“To give you an idea of how I squeeze in everything in my life, I typically work 9-5 at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. I obviously have obligations to my college baseball team as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator and handle all this along with calls to alumni, practices, games, weight room duties and other tasks involving the baseball program.

“Once I am done, I don’t go home and call it a day. I try to get involved with a number of different groups and organizations and volunteer my time to lend assistance.

“I want to be more than a baseball coach. I am proud that our group of baseball coaches has helped thousands of people over the last year in all walks of life.”

Bernardi said that on numerous occasions, the recipients of food or toys have cried because they were so emotional and grateful.

“The toy drive we did for Christmas was very special. We teamed up with the local Marine Corps chapter here on Long Island. My team and I were able to obtain 2,000 toys for kids which we donated. To see the look on some of the kids’ faces knowing they would have a good Christmas was fantastic.

“So many people in New York lost their jobs during the pandemic and have suffered greatly. Christmas and the holidays probably wasn’t the same for a lot of people in this country. It made me feel so good to know that kids in my community were supplied with toys.

“Thanksgiving is probably everyone’s favorite holiday. We were able to provide a hot meal for 500 families.

“Going to police stations has been extremely gratifying to me. We gave food to over 11 different police precincts ranging four different departments. We went to the Suffolk County, Nashua County and the New York Police Departments. We also went to the Glen Cove Police Department and the Cooperstown Police Department in upstate New York where the Hall of Fame is located.

“Going into these precincts was so special. We provided a breakfast, lunch or dinner to honor them and said ‘Thank You’ to these amazing people. Being a first responder and public servant at times is a thankless job. To have somebody come to them and say thank you was important. These people are human just like me and you.”

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