Jane Peleti figured last weekend’s Rohnert Park Cal Ripken Baseball opening day ceremony wouldn’t be much different than it had been in years past.
Peleti, one of the extraordinary photographers for The Community Voice, was on assignment to photograph the event as she does each year. And year after year, Peleti delivers outstanding photographs from this event. Who can forget the photograph from opening day in 2013 of a worn out Cayven Kennedy, then 4, deciding to take a nap on first base during his team’s game?
She was performing her duties last Saturday, getting the shots that told the story. But little did she know she would become the story of the day.
Camera reaches the end
Peleti’s trusted camera had reached the end of its life and was no longer operable. She mentioned this on Facebook several times. She figured at some point, she’d be able to save enough to purchase a new camera. Her dream camera is the Canon 7D Mark 2.
Aimee Bell saw Peleti’s post and sprang into action. She initiated through a Facebook page a community effort to raise money for a new camera for Peleti. The month-long effort, entitled “Cam for the Community Fam,” had a target of $4,000 and was conducted without the knowledge of Peleti.
On the Facebook page, Bell wrote, “she’s the woman you’ll see at your elementary schools taking pictures of your little ones for student of the week, the woman on the football field of your Rancho Cotate games catching amazing shots of your kids in action. I was hoping we could use this opportunity to come together as a community and pitch in however much you’re willing to give so we can get her a gift certificate to buy a new one.”
And boy did the community respond. During the opening day ceremony, Bell made an impassioned oration before announcing that $4,100 had been raised for Peleti to purchase a new camera.
‘A community treasure’
“She is definitely a community treasure…she has a heart of gold,” Bell said to the crowd at Benecia Park in Rohnert Park. “She builds relationships with people and captures their most precious and beautiful moments that truly warm your heart. She’s that person if you ask for a shot of your kid, she’ll get it.”
Speaking directly to Peleti, Bell said, “Our community is lucky to have you. We are in awe of your willingness to share your generously share your talents with us. Please know this is a small token of our love and our gratitude for all you do for us.”
Peleti was absolutely slack-jawed for a few moments as she realized what was happening.
“That was the best-kept secret by the whole community,” Peleti said the day after. “To say I was surprised…that’s an understatement. I had no clue.”
A surprise gift of this magnitude was a sign of just how much the local community respects all Peleti has done over the years.
“It made me feel appreciated and loved…Oh my God, I’m about to start crying again,” Peleti said. “There were quite a few tears, but I didn’t do the full-out bawling. I was holding it in so I could try to speak.”
Getting the words out
Peleti, obviously more comfortable being behind the camera than speaking to a crowd of people, managed to get a few words out before giving up the microphone.
“I truly do it for the love of photography for all those little ones, and if the parents benefit from that, that’s even more awesome,” Peleti told the crowd. “I don’t have words. I’m stunned. I thank you all so very much. I’ll try to get 10 times better photos for you guys.”
Peleti said she has already ordered her new camera but will hold off on certain lenses.
She said she had a feeling something out of the ordinary was going to happen last Saturday because there were a number of people she normally wouldn’t see at Cal Ripken opening days.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘you don’t have any kids playing Cal Ripken, why are you here?’” Peleti said. “I think I would have been a lot more suspicious if I had seen my husband and daughter there. This was beyond anything I ever could have thought of or imagined.”