Building A Field Of Dreams

Sometimes, growing up in a small town can keep you from thinking big. In Wednesday's installment of the continuing Week of Wishes series, a woman from a tiny town in Mississippi asks The Early Show to help her hometown kids realize the world is a big place, filled with possibility.

There's not a whole lot going on in Leesburg, Miss.: No movie theaters, no parks. In fact, if it weren't for the general store, you might not know there was a town at all.

But PeeWee football is big in Leesburg, the result of near-Herculean efforts by local parents like Tammy Slaght.

"A lot of the people who live here have lived here all their lives," Slaght says. "There's the cotton and the corn. I want the kids to know that they can go on to college; they can become a professional player; they can do anything they want to do. They don't have to stay in Leesburg. It's wonderful here, but there is so much more that they can do."

The PeeWee league doesn't even have its own field. For three years, all their games have been road games, and they practice on an uneven patch of grass in front of the local high school.

Pointing at the land, Slaght says, "Well, this is our soon-to-be field; it's our field of dreams."

The parents have leased land from the state, in hopes of eventually building a field for all the kids of Leesburg. Right now, it's not much to see: swampy puddles, and tall weeds, but Tammy Slaght has a different vision.

She says, "I see kids just running and playing, and concession stands, and games going on, and referees yelling. I just see fun, fun for the kids."

And while Slaght dreams of the field, she's wished for something else, and wrote to The Early Show.

She reads her letter, "My wish is that the PeeWee football teams in our community get to meet a famous football player. There are about 40 boys and they play their little hearts out. Can you please help me put a giant smile on their faces?"

Enter local hero Deuce McAllister.

"All I can do is just be myself," he says. "Whether they think I'm a hero, or not, that's great and fine."

McAllister, a record-breaking running back for Ole Miss, grew up just a few miles from Leesburg. He's now a star for the New Orleans Saints, whose Catch-22 foundation is a charity for underpriviledged kids.

Slaght and the coaches agreed to get the kids together for a mock practice, and McAllister agreed to meet the PeeWee players.

McAllister says, "If I can encourage a kid to do well or do better in school, and try to stay out of trouble, then that's what I'm going to do, but I understand that not everybody's going to listen."

No worries with this group of kids, whooping it up upon McAllister's arrival.

For a couple of hours on a cold damp day, Deuce McAllister answered questions.

One such question was: "Did you ever play PeeWee football, and what position did you play?"

His answer to the little boy who asked, "I didn't play, man. You are lucky! I didn't have this opportunity. I didn't start playing until I was in the seventh grade, and I played whatever position they needed me to play."

He signed autographs, and he thrilled the kids just by playing catch. For Slaght, it was a wish fulfilled.

"Thank you so much," she said as she hugged McAllister.

For the players, it was a chance to be big-time small-town kids in the spotlight - a meeting and a memory for a lifetime.

"My heart stopped," exclaimed one.

"I forgot to breathe for a little second. I was amazed," exclaimed another.

And that was not all.

Wednesday morning, Slaght was on The Early Show with three of her PeeWee leaguers: son Cody Slaght, William Matthews, and Kolbey McNeer.

Cody got a cake. (It happened to be his birthday.) And everybody was surprised when co-anchor Rene Syler introduced them to Darell Hammond of KaBOOM!, and Kevin Martinez from the Home Depot.

"I'm with a non-profit organization called KaBOOM!, and we believe every child needs a great, safe, fun place to play in their own neighborhood," Hammond said. "And in the last ten years we built 750 of them across the country, 250 with our good friends from the Home Depot. And they're in your town and they'd like to grant your wish today, Tammy, and partner with you and these kids to turn your open field into a dream athletic field in your own community."

Martinez added, "We're a pretty young corporation. We're only about 25 years old. We've been partnering with KaBOOM! to build fields and playgrounds. We just started fields last year and so this will be one of the first fields that we'll actually build in Mississippi. We don't have stores in Leesburg but we have great associates that will come down and refurbish and rebuild that field for you."

"It would mean a lot." 13-year-old Cody said, "Thank you."

Tammy Slaght added, "Oh, my gosh this is so wonderful. These kids deserve it. They really need somewhere to be. This is great! Thank you."