Hanahan Hawks pitch in to support 'Giving Tree' program

Holiday effort provides gifts for families in need

Hanahan High School baseball coach Brian Mitchell fired up the team bus last Sunday afternoon, but he wasn’t headed for a baseball game on this delightful mid-December day. He was playing Santa, sans the red suit, and the bus served as his sleigh.

Mitchell and his players, along with the members of the softball team and cheerleading squad, are part of a “Giving Tree,” a feel-good program started by Trudy Eyrich that helps the needy during the Christmas season. The Hawk baseball team bought presents for five children whose Christmas might be a shutout if not for the generosity and compassion from the Hawks and other members of the Hanahan community. This year, the Giving Tree helped 394 children from 211 families.

“We get them exactly what they want,” Mitchell said. “If they want something like a bike, we take money from the baseball operations fund. But we make sure they get what they want.”

Mitchell drove the team bus to the North Charleston Dream Center to deliver presents that were from the baseball players, softball players and cheerleaders. The journey began at a Hanahan home that was no different than the other houses in the subdivision except this house was stuffed to the rafters with Christmas gifts. The home belongs to Ted and Trudy Eyrich, husband and wife and partners in presenting the true spirit of Christmas.

Trudy Eyrich is the mastermind of the program and reflected on its humble roots. Not that long ago, Eyrich lived in Mount Pleasant, where her son, Cole Rakar, played baseball for the Wando Warriors. She started visiting the guidance counselor at Wando and asked, “Who needs help (with Christmas) this year?”

She went solo those years while her son attended Wando, but by the time she and her husband moved to Hanahan seven years ago, she was ready to make it a group effort.

“There are a lot of people who want to help and give but don’t know how,” Eyrich said. “This gives them a way to help and to contribute to make someone’s Christmas better. I’m like a conduit. I stand in the middle and connect people who want to help with people who need help. I match people who want to give during the Christmas season with people who wouldn’t have a Christmas.”

The Eyrichs’ Christmas giving was a big hit in the Hanahan community. The Giving Tree helped out 50-55 families that first year and grew to more than 100 the following year. Eyrich realized that social media, including Facebook, could help reach more people who wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.

There have been obstacles to overcome in making other people’s Christmases memorable. Last October, Trudy was diagnosed with breast cancer while Ted was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“When I started chemotherapy, I told my doctor, ‘Here’s my calendar. I have to be healthy for the Giving tree. I have to be able to help out and give out gifts.’”

Mitchell, the Hanahan baseball coach, praised the Eyrichs for their role in making Christmas special for those who need help.

“She’s such a great organizer and knows how to get things done,” Mitchell said. “It’s a great concept that became reality and continues to grow every year. It’s a great experience for our students. It’s good because they learn about giving back, and that Christmas doesn’t just happen magically.”

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