William Cook, 14, of the Township of Washington, N.J., an eighth-grader at Westwood Regional Jr./Sr. High School, has sent more than 3,000 baseballs signed by Americans of all ages to U.S. soldiers as an expression of love, thanks, hope and praise. William, whose grandfathers and great-grandfather served in the military, started out by participating in a letter-writing campaign for U.S. troops. "But baseball is my passion!" he said. "I really wanted to do something baseball-oriented for my volunteer hours." His mother suggested including baseballs with his letters, and then William thought: why not write letters on baseballs.
He began to collect baseballs from friends, family members and local businesses, and then set up a table at his former elementary school during a town festival and asked attendees to write encouraging notes on the balls. He took 100 signed baseballs home that day, packaged them in a treat bag, and shipped them to military contacts. Since then, William has held baseball signings with youth groups, Girl Scouts, senior citizens, police and fire departments, sports teams, corporations and military organizations. In addition, volunteers in Florida, South Carolina, Connecticut and Pennsylvania have picked up on his idea and sent hundreds of baseballs on their own to active servicemembers. William recently turned his project into a nonprofit called "Billy's BASEballs" with a website to spread the word. "I intend to keep this going as long as our troops are fighting for our freedom," he said.