Soon after her freshman softball season at Immaculata University next year, Annemarie Bartow expects to lop off some of her hair.
“If it gets to 12 inches longer than I need it to be, I’ll get it cut off,” said the Howell senior shortstop. “My hair is thick and heavy. It weighs me down.”
However, the cutting of her hair has nothing to do with how fast she can run or whether it will get in her face when she throws to first base. It’s for a much greater reason.
“Locks of Love definitely is one of my favorite causes,” Bartow said. “It’s such a great cause because my hair is used to help make wigs for children with cancer, and just being a part of helping somebody else in that way is really awesome.”
Bartow’s been donating between 10 and 14 inches of her dark locks about every three years since age 5, and she plans on continuing the trend.
But much like the past 12 years, Bartow likely will find more causes in which to get involved, be a leader, or both. The Honor Society student already, at 17, has logged more volunteer hours than some adults do in a lifetime.
“Annemarie has a big heart,” said Howell coach Tricia Savino. “The volunteer work she does outside of softball is incredible. She’s just so kind-hearted and will do anything for just about anybody. She’s a just a really nice kid.”
As part of obtaining her Silver Award in Girl Scouts, she organized a blood drive in 2011. Within the autism program at Howell High School, Bartow meets and does activities with autistic students every Tuesday, and she has sold scarves to raise money to acquire equipment for the program.
She’s helped raise funds for Relay for Life, and for the past four years has helped make Thanksgiving baskets that are donated to local families in need. Following Hurricane Sandy, Bartow helped organize a clothing drive at the high school to benefit families affected by the storm. She’s even umpired games for the Howell Girls Softball League and teaches hitting and fielding fundamentals to younger players during the summer months.
And that’s a short list of what Bartow is or has been involved with over the years.
“I do sleep, but I find time to do all of it because I really enjoy these things,” she said. “They’ve helped make me the person I am.”
Voted “Miss Congeniality” for the Howell Class of 2014, and sometimes referred to as “Miss Sunshine” by friends and family, Bartow excels in lifting up others, either with a smile or one of her signature greetings, through which she doesn’t simply say, “Hello.”
“I don’t give the normal hello,” she said. “That’s too easy. I enjoy making others feel like they’re worth my time. My friend, Michelle, tells me all the time that when I say hello to her it makes her feel special, like she’s the only person around. And I try to do that with everybody I meet, to make it a nice individual moment for them.”
On the field, Bartow’s a leader who treats her teammates with respect and compassion but also drives them to be better, mostly leading by example.
“She’s the type of kid who’s always going to show up at practice, work hard and be a leader,” Savino said. “Annemarie’s really good at getting the rest of the team up for games, getting them focused to play and keeping them up in the dugout during games. She has all the qualities of a great leader, I think. I’m really going to miss her next year.”
With a competitive nature that matches her leadership ability, Bartow should fit in well with the Mighty Macs, playing for head coach Mike Wallace.
“I absolutely love Mike Wallace, because he’s a good man who welcomes you full-on and makes you feel like you belong,” she said. “It’s a cute little Catholic school in Pennsylvania that just fits my personality.”
Bartow ultimately chose Immaculata for its athletic training program, which has stringent academic guidelines. She also likes the idea that it’s close enough to home so her parents can visit and watch her play.
“It will be good for my dad, because he’ll still be able to come to my games and harass me,” Bartow said with a laugh. “But I’m so excited about going to Immaculata, because it’s going to be a new chapter, a new team, a whole new experience I get to enjoy.”
And there’s no doubt, the bubbly Bartow will enjoy her time in college, especially if she can burst with laughter, give somebody a smile and a hug, and make a classmate happier if even for a few hours.
“I have to be smiling, happy, giggly,” she said. “That’s just me. There’s no time in life to be mean — there just isn’t. You have to enjoy the people around you, try to make them feel good about themselves and make them happier.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge. But I do whatever I can to be nice to everyone, because you never know who needs a lift and your smile can brighten up their day.”