When the derecho swept through Eastern Iowa on August 10, Tommy Rhomberg rode out the storm in the basement of his home in Mount Vernon. Like thousands of others, the family emerged to find themselves surrounded by tangled masses of trees and limbs.
“You couldn’t even see the road—it was covered in branches,” Tommy said.
As the family worked to clean up the debris, Tommy recognized an opportunity. His friend, Walker, was celebrating a birthday that very day, and Tommy was anxious to make him something special.
When his mom found out he was making a baseball bat, she wasn’t the least bit surprised. “Tommy is a builder and a creator,” she said.
It was an ambitious project, but Tommy found a branch and started whittling. After four days, ten hours of work, and a few blisters, he had the perfect gift for his teammate’s unforgettable birthday.
Tommy painted “The Great Derecho” on the side of the bat and proudly presented it to his friend and teammate. Walker was impressed by Tommy’s work, and he wasn’t the only one.
As news of “The Great Derecho” spread, requests started rolling in—people wanted derecho bats. Once again, Tommy saw an opportunity. With such a demand for bats, he knew he could raise money for recovery efforts.
Teaming up with his dad, Tommy got back to work whittling, lathing, and staining. In the weeks since, Tommy has sold 125 bats, raising $2,500 for the Community Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Fund. Tommy and his parents presented the check to Les Garner, President & CEO at the Community Foundation on November 2, 2020. The family explained more will be coming. Since a recent story on CBS Evening News, over 300 new orders have been received and put on a wait list.
To be added to the wait list, visit thegreatderecho.com. “I hope I can keep making bats, but I am 12 years old and my parents won’t let me drop out of the 6th grade,” Tommy joked.
All jokes aside, the project has been an inspiring story for many throughout the recovery process.
“Since so many people in our area need help after the storm, let’s work together to make a difference for them,” he said. “Good can come from almost anything.”
To follow Tommy’s journey, visit www.facebook.com/thegreatderecho.