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What started as supply run for victims of the Valley Fire last September came full circle recently as a Lake County elementary school hosted its first-ever game of cricket.

Inspired by the good deeds of his Napa Valley Cricket Club teammates, Napa High School senior Caen Healy arranged to put on a cricket match at Coyote Valley Elementary School as part of his senior project.

The morning of Sunday, Sept. 13, when many in the Napa Valley woke to the news of the Valley Fire, NVCC members learned that many residents from Lake County had been evacuated to the Calistoga Fairgrounds where the club plays its games. Through local members on the ground in Calistoga and social media, it became obvious to the club that supplies were needed in Calistoga. While many people were making offers of items in various online social media conversations, there was no way to get the supplies to where they were needed.

The NVCC hastily arranged a drop-off point in north Napa and got the word out about this via email, text and social media. By 2 p.m. that afternoon, members had sent seven vehicles north to Calistoga with food and water supplies, blankets, sleeping bags, canopies, clothing, animal crates and much more. Included in the supply run were care packages individually handmade by club member Emma Brown, and these somehow made their way to the doorsteps of homes in Middletown after the fire had been quelled. Some online sleuthing by one of these recipients, Middletown resident and CVES Principal Shane Lee led him to the NVCC website, and a subsequent phone call to express his gratitude for their generous thoughts and actions.

A few months later, Healy said, “I was writing a paper for my senior project on ‘Developing cricket in non-traditional markets,’ and I was looking for a way to do this locally. The NVCC is now well-established here in the Napa Valley and has been very supportive in my efforts to found the Napa High Cricket Club, but I wanted to reach beyond that. They suggested I contact the folks up at CVES and arrange to come visit and show them the game of cricket. And that’s what I did.”

Sixth-grade teacher Jeff Herman jumped at the opportunity to expose his class to the game of cricket. Herman had himself been exposed to the game years ago while living in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and knew about the etiquette of the game and its traditions. In addition, he wanted to expose the students to something new, to help broaden their minds and allow them to see and play the second-most-popular sport in the world.

Healy started in the classroom, where he showed the students a video that compared cricket and baseball. A handout for the students gave them a visual understanding of the game and prompted many interesting questions. Healy passed around cricket balls and his helmet, bat, gloves and pads so that the interested students could touch and feel real cricket equipment.

After the question-and-answer session, it was time to head outside. The class broke into three groups for practice drills: fielding (throwing and catching), bowling (like pitching in baseball) and batting. Once the basic skills had been mastered, it was time for a game. The class was divided into two teams – the A’s and the Giants – and they batted in pairs for two overs (like innings) and each student got a chance to bowl one over, or six balls.

The game finished just as the buses pulled up to take the sixth-graders home, having been part of history by playing the first-ever cricket match in Lake County.

Healy took the structure for the day from a program run by NVCC President Phil Bourke at Napa’s Vichy Elementary School in 2015, which proved to be highly successful. He hopes to use it in the future as he is keen to continue to be an ambassador for the game he loves and has played for the 11 years.

The equipment used during his school visit came from the East Coast-based United States Youth Cricket Association, which generously sent two full cricket sets that Healy presented to the school so that the students could continue to play the game.

“It’s been a great experience coming to CVES and watching the kids learn about the game of cricket, a game that I love,” Healy said. “Cricket is growing in America and soon there will be a large program of outreach into schools all over the country, so it was great to be part of that push to de-mystify the game and show the kids how much fun it is as a game. Shane and Jeff at CVES were great in accommodating me for this part of my senior project and I’m grateful to them for their time in getting everything arranged.”

Healy plans to continue his own cricket playing with the NVCC, which will play 11 games over the course of 2016 — including Saturday against the Marin Socials at Piper Park in Larkspur, starting at 11 a.m.

After graduation this June, Healy plans to attend Napa Valley College before taking up a place at Boston University in their economics program in the fall of 2017.

Visit napacricket.com for more information on the NVCC.

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