From the desk of Amy Rosewater/UMPS Care
UMPS CARE Charities, the official philanthropy of the Major League Baseball umpires, today announced Vitalik Walle, a recent graduate of Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, as the 2019 recipient of the All-Star College Scholarship. Adopted at the age of 15 from an orphanage in Ukraine by parents in Colorado, Vitalik is attending Colorado Christian University..
Vitalik will receive $10,000 per year to defray the costs of his college education. Many families who adopt children later in life do not have the time to save for college, so the umpires wanted to make a truly life-changing difference in the lives of these young people. To date, UMPS CARE Charities has distributed nearly $200,000 to students through the All-Star College Scholarship Program.
"This program is truly life changing," said UMPS CARE president Gary Darling, a retired MLB umpire. "It helps these kids, who have been through more than most kids their age - or people of any age for that matter - go to the college of their choice and not have the financial burden. I wish we had $100,000 to give out every year. I think the hardest part for us is selecting the one winner each year because we would love to be able to impact the lives of more young people.”
"I don't think rewarding is a strong enough word for what this program is all about," Darling added. "I think this is one of the best things we do at UMPS CARE."
Vitalik’s story has taken him from the streets of Ukraine, to living in an orphanage, to escaping Ukraine as the Soviets invaded, to learning a new language, to graduating high school to attending college.
“(The UMPS CARE scholarship) means a lot to me,” Vitalik said. “My parents and I decided we would split the cost for college. They would pay for room and board and I would pay for the rest. I was looking for scholarships so I wouldn’t have to take out a loan. I am so happy I have found this scholarship and got some funding for school.”
When Vitalik is not doing extra studies to overcome the language barrier or achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, he is volunteering at the local police station, a home for the elderly, and leading a children’s bible study at his church.
Part of what makes the All-Star College Scholarship program unique is that the umpires mentor the student throughout the college journey. Umpires will have lunch on campus with the winners, call them periodically to check on them and send care packages before exams.
This past season, umpires Todd Tichenor, Tom Hallion, Adam Hamari and Ben May invited Vitalik and his family for a behind-the-scenes visit before a Colorado Rockies game. Tichenor and wife, Kelly, serve as mentors to Vitalik. Kelly Tichenor was on the All-Star College Scholarship committee at UMPS CARE that selected the recipient.