Texas teen collects shoes for Eagle Scout project, throws first pitch at Rangers game

As Uyless Bland walked out to the mound at Globe Life Park in Arlington for Buckner Day at the Rangers, he had an entire city behind him.

The 18-year-old knows what it’s like to need that support. In 2013, his home in Goliad, Texas, burned down just days before Christmas. Bland, his mother and two brothers had nowhere to go.

The small yet motivated Goliad community rallied around the Blands to help them and within two days, they had “everything we needed except for a house,” Bland said. “It was so humbling. You’re just used to having everything you need and then it’s gone. It’s like restarting.”

In response to their generosity, Bland wanted to help others as well. He recently completed his Eagle Scout project by collecting 554 pairs of shoes to give to Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®.

Goliad has one high school with about 400 students. There is one grocery store, and one medical practice. Bland put shoe collection boxes at every church, school, bank and business in town. Collecting that many shoes meant one of nearly every five people in town gave a pair.

Bland heard about Shoes for Orphan Souls from his pastor. He knew it would be the perfect project to show just how much the generosity of his town meant to him.

“I really liked the message of (Buckner),” Bland said. “You’re helping people who need to be helped. I feel like everybody should take part in that.”

The high school senior also exceled at every sport he played, including football and track. He plans to attend Sam Houston State University in the fall to study nursing.

Bland made the six-hour trip from south Texas to Arlington to throw out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers game May 15. It also just happened to be Scout day.

“I’m really nervous,” he said before the game. “But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ll always remember this day.”

He rocked back and threw a perfect strike. And the city of Goliad cheered loudly.

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