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O’Neal makes a difference
Mahlena O’Neal 44
Mahlena O’Neal

Ceres High School grad/former University of Georgia softball player Mahlena O’Neal is using her athletic talent to bring awareness to social injustice and brutality following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

O’Neal offered hitting and catching lessons to a half-dozen softball players, aged 9-16, from the 209 area that donated money to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

“If more people want to donate, I’ll do more lessons,” she said.

A total of $400 was raised last week.

“I gave six lessons,” O’Neal said. “I also got donations from people that didn’t get lessons. Overall, I’m really happy with the turnout. It makes me proud of the people in the community.”

Players were required to show proof that they donated to the BLM movement prior to receiving lessons.

A $25 or above donation resulted in a 35-minute lesson.

A $45 or above donation resulted in an hour-long lesson.

O’Neal gave lessons to three players in Ceres, two in Modesto and one in Manteca.

She will continue to meet with players at local parks and indoor facilities.

“I’m not doing this for praise,” O’Neal said. “It’s my way of trying to help make a positive change. I’m educating kids. We’ll never experience the hatefulness black people get all the time. Every person regardless of skin color needs to be treated fairly.”

To sign up for lessons, contact O’Neal at 209-360-4858.

O’Neal will continue to support BLM.

“There are many ways to get involved without having to be at protests,” she said. “There are petitions to sign and people to email. I wish I would have done that when I was younger.”

O’Neal wrapped up her softball career at Georgia this spring.

She opted to not return for a fifth season next year.

O’Neal suited up for Georgia for three-plus seasons as the 2020 campaign was cut short due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

She made 143 starts at catcher.

Her fielding percentage of .996 ranks second in team history.

O’Neal totaled 99 hits, 17 homers, 21 doubles, 91 RBIs and 38 runs in 174 career games.

She threw out 26 would-be base stealers.

She made just three errors.

O’Neal’s teams at Georgia amassed a 148-60 overall record, qualified for the NCAA Tournament four times and advanced to the Women’s College World Series once.

“I worked hard,” she said. “I made some really good friends.”