COMPTON, Calif -- They showed up at MLB Urban Youth Academy at 3 in the morning Tuesday and waited seven hours to get their free turkey at the 11th Annual Healthy Family Update and Turkey Giveaway, a community event that started in 2004 with 300 turkeys given out to low-income families. In 2015 the number has risen to 11,000. So members of the local community and politicians joined with the Dodgers and the baseball community to help hand out the turkeys.
"It's a wonderful thing, but at the same time it's also a sad thing," said California State Senator Isadore Hall III, who originally created the event and whose 35th District represents Compton. "People are still hungry and people are still hurting and there's still work to be done. The great thing is that we have community partners working with us to help accommodate that need. Major League Baseball is one of those partners who have a voice in what we're doing and the Urban Youth Academy is a fitness academy that helps teach kids baseball, but also helps keep people in shape -- so it's good that the event is here because this is exactly the purpose of what we are trying to do."
The event is a multi-pronged philanthropic collaboration among Hall, local officials and community leaders who are committed to reducing incidents of obesity, diabetes and HIV/AIDS in underserved communities while promoting healthier lifestyles for children and families. Free health screenings for diabetes, HIV, blood pressure and BMI were available to residents at the event.
"This is what we always envisioned the academy to be," said Darrell Miller, vice president of youth and facility development for Major League Baseball. "A community center in a place like Compton, when we opened this academy 10 years. We wanted it to be a hub and we are really blessed that we are looked at that way. We have a great staff, and Major League Baseball gets behind what we are doing financially and it's a priority for us to make sure our community is taken care of."
The Dodgers did their part by donating 11,000 canvas bags for people to take their turkeys home, and Dodgers alums Billy Ashley, Lee Lacy and Tim Leary were on hand with other members of the organization to help distribute the turkeys.
"This is my first time at this event," said Ashley. "I enjoy giving back to the community, and Thanksgiving is all about being thankful and I'm thankful to be a part of this and to put some smiles on people's faces and some food in their belly."
"This is my second year doing this," said Leary. "I find it really rewarding and it's great that the Dodgers are involved, helping to keep families together or help putting someone who doesn't have a family with some food and other people is awesome."
The event was scheduled to go from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., but everything was so well organized and ran so smoothly, by noon all turkeys had been distributed and 11,000 families went home to get ready for a true Thanksgiving.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.