ST. LOUIS -- For all the praise the Cardinals garnered for their on-field success, the organization has points of pride from 2012 that extend well beyond the Busch Stadium walls.
It was another banner year off the field for the Redbirds, whose charity initiatives and continued work with Cardinals Care impacted residents not only in the St. Louis area, but across the state of Missouri. No more was that evident than in the organization's continued outreach to Joplin, Mo., which is still recovering and rebuilding from a May 2011 tornado.
As a part of the Cardinals' effort to aid that community, several team officials -- including manager Mike Matheny, team president Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak -- traveled to Joplin this summer to participate in a home build with Habitat for Humanity.
While there, the organization presented a combined $200,000 to four charities that work specifically with children in Joplin. That donation was made possible through fan donations to Cardinals Care's Joplin Recovery fund.
Cardinals Care, the organization's charitable arm dedicated to assisting children, had several other fundraising events in order to raise money for its work. Among them were the third annual Cardinals Care 6K and One Mile Fun Run, as well as a pair of Jersey Days at the ballpark.
The 6K and Fun Run raised over $194,000 for Cardinals Care and saw participation double, with 1,350 people taking part in this year's race. Former Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Caitlin Motte, the wife of Cardinals closer Jason Motte, served as spokespersons for the event.
Another $74,000 was raised through the organization's pair of Jersey Days, which give fans the opportunity to buy scratch-off tickets for a $1 dollar donation. Select tickets provided fans with the chance to go on the field and receive a signed Cardinals jersey after the game.
Some of the proceeds from this fundraiser went directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The rest of the funds went to Cardinals Care, which has handed out nearly $18 million since its inception in 1997. With a focus on children, that money assists non-profit youth organizations and has aided in the construction of 19 ball fields in area disadvantaged neighborhoods.
"Cardinals Care is fortunate to have the strong support of owners, coaches, players, dedicated volunteers and the best fans in baseball to help care for kids in the St. Louis area and throughout Cardinals Nation," said Michael Hall, the vice president of Cardinals Care. "Because of this loyal support, we are able to keep giving back into the local community."
One of Cardinals Care's primary programs continues to be its Redbird Rookies endeavor, which is designed to introduce baseball and softball free of charge to children while also teaching them life lessons.
Launched in 2004, the Redbird Rookies program has expanded to include 21 leagues made up for 280 teams and 4,300 children. Seven individuals who went through the program are currently receiving post-secondary education with the help of Redbird Rookies scholarships.
In addition, nearly $300,000 was distributed this year by the Cardinals to 137 non-profit organizations in the St. Louis area. Another sizeable donation went to the Reviving Baseball Inner Cities (RBI) program sponsored by Major League Baseball. That money was raised through the 23rd annual Cardinals Care celebrity golf tournament held during June.
Several Cardinals players participated in the golf outing, which was one of several ways in which they got involved during 2012. Many made regular hospital visits and school visits. And more than 80 schools welcomed a Cardinals player into a classroom this year to encourage students to stay in school, say no to drugs and participate in sports.
Players also made an impact by heading their own endeavors. Matt Holliday put his name to the August celebrity golf tournament that Albert Pujols had started several years ago as a way for Holliday to raise money for his foundation. Skip Schumaker staged a benefit and jumpstarted Baby Reesa Night at the Ballpark to raise funds to help cover the medical cost for Reesa, a 1-year-old diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder called Krabbe Leukodystrophy.
A significant portion of the funding for Cardinals Care initiatives is collected during the team's annual Winter Warm-Up, and details for the 2013 event were recently announced by the club. The three-day baseball extravaganza will be held Jan. 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch.
For more information on the Warm-Up, or to find out more about what the Cardinals are up to in the community, visit www.cardinals.com/community.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.