'Let's do this for mom.' Marian Central senior carries on her mother's charitable work

Marian Central senior Jenna Golembiewski looked at all the baseball and softball equipment she and her brother, A.J., had accumulated through their many years of travel sports, and thought of her mother.

LeAnn Golembiewski, who died in 2019 after a bout with breast cancer, loved putting together equipment drives with A.J.’s McHenry County Hurricanes travel teams. She would arrange to get donations of whatever equipment people would offer, which then were sent through Roberto’s Kids to underprivileged children in Central and South America.

“We were cleaning out the garage and making Goodwill trips and we had all our baseball and softball stuff together and I said ‘Why don’t we make one last big donation to Roberto’s Kids?’ ” Jenna Golembiewski said. “This is my last year playing travel ball and we have so much equipment from all the years we played.”

On Oct. 3, White Sox coach Luis Sierra drove to the Golembiewskis’ home in Woodstock, then past Marian Central, and packed his SUV full with baseball pants, used gloves, batting gloves, bats and balls, that were then packed up and sent to Sierra’s native Colombia.

“This is one of her favorite organizations and she would always make donations,” Jenna Golembiewski said of her mother. “It means a lot. I’ve always been wanting to help kids in other countries. Our volleyball team helps Feed the Starving Children and it’s good to know that I’m able to help kids who are truly in need, and not just around the United States.”

Gus Golembiewski, Jenna’s father, contacted Steve Pindar, the president and founder of Roberto’s Kids, to let him know donations were coming. Pindar then set up the Golembiewskis with Sierra.

Pindar works closely with the sons of Pittsburgh Pirates’ Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who was noted for his charitable work in helping others. Clemente died on Dec. 31, 1972, when the plane he was riding in crashed. He was on his way to deliver aid to aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Pindar started Roberto’s Kids to give back through community and social responsibility.

“(Jenna) pretty much did everything on her own,” Gus Golembiewski said. “It’s a great charity. Everybody here has the best equipment money can buy. There were gloves like used (Wilson) A2000s, top bats. We had batting helmets, catcher’s gear, a couple buckets of softballs, a couple buckets of baseballs, a lot of uniform pants.

“You’d be surprised how much stuff people have laying around.”

A.J. Golembiewski is a red-shirt freshman right-handed pitcher at D-II Illinois-Springfield. With Jenna heading to college next year, she figured she and her Illinois Chill travel teammates will get a lot of new equipment when they reach college.

Two of her Chill teammates contributed new helmets from Marist High School. The Chill had a couple dozen pairs of unused game pants. A.J. Golembiewski had old pairs of Victory pants he had ordered to fit his 6-foot-5 frame, which can be used by taller players in Colombia.

Jenna Golembiewski, who will sign her National Letter of Intent to NCAA Division I Miami (Ohio) next month, emailed all three levels of the Chill program – 14U, 16U and 18U – to ask for equipment.

“She’d load up her Jeep after every practice,” Gus Golembiewski said. “The piles kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Sierra could not leave the White Sox because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sox wanted to keep all players, coaches and team personnel away from others until after the season was finished.

When Oakland eliminated the Sox from the AL Wild Card Playoff round on Oct. 1, Gus Golembiewski received an email from Sierra that he was coming on Saturday.

Jenna Golembiewski, an outfielder, also contacted Marian baseball coach Tom Kruse, who made some donations from the Hurricanes’ baseball program. Sierra went to Marian before heading back to Chicago to pack a little more into his vehicle.

“He filled every bit of air space in his SUV,” Gus Golembiewski said. “It took up half or our garage.”

LeAnn Golembiewski was an NCAA Division I basketball player and track and field athlete at UNLV. She is remembered by family and friends as someone who gave much of her time to coach youth teams and constantly helped others.

“(Roberto’s Kids) is a nice charity and it had been a while since we made a donation,” Gus Golembiewski said. “Whenever the McHenry County Hurricanes would do that, LeAnn would be the person who led that. Jenna said, ‘Let’d do this for mom. I’m sure she’d be proud of us.’ ”

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