Clubs #GoGold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
By Mark Newman
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so Major League Baseball clubs will #GoGold in their own unique ways over coming days -- starting with some dramatic examples on Tuesday, from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium to Tropicana Field to Citi Field. Here are some of the plans:
Boston Red Sox
In Boston, a special gold ribbon will be stenciled on the sideline, where MLB allows the Opening Day mark, as the Yankees and Red Sox renew their rivalry. The gold ribbon is symbolic of the fight to end pediatric cancer, which is diagnosed in 43 children every day. The cancer claims the lives of six kids per day.
The Red Sox will be one of many clubs hosting their own unique events over the course of September to lead in the fight against pediatric cancer. There will be a special pregame ceremony in which a donor, the Give A Buck Fund, started by the mother of a cancer patient, will present a check of $25,000 to the Jimmy Fund in support of pediatric cancer. A human gold ribbon of at least 150 kids in gold shirts will file into the outfield amid a song about their battle, and that ribbon will remain in the outfield for the national anthem as well.
After the third inning, the Red Sox will have everyone in the ballpark stand up with a gold card, on which they are invited to write the name of a child who has been touched by cancer. NESN, MLB Network and MLB.com will broadcast the moment to help increase awareness.
"There is a heart in each club, but when we do things together, we have great power to help put an end to children's cancer," said Red Sox executive vice president Charles Steinberg. "You realize that if all the clubs united to go gold in September, you are impacting such a tremendous national and international audience.
"This is a very important theme for Commissioner [Rob] Manfred, as it was for Commissioner [Bud] Selig, to connect with children, to take care of children. And in this case, you want to vanquish the disease that still kills more children than any other disease."
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner invited a friend to throw Tuesday's ceremonial first pitch before the home game against rival San Francisco: 8-year-old Luke Lang of Bellmore, NY. Luke was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.) on March 28, 2013, and he first met Turner in July 2013 while Turner was with the Mets. This meeting marked the first time Luke was able to leave home since his diagnosis and hospitalization. Luke gave Turner a bracelet carrying his motto, "Losing is not an option," and in turn, Turner gave Luke a signed bat.
Since their first meeting, Luke has joined Turner at Dodger playoff games, and Turner celebrated with Luke at Universal Studios one day after the Dodgers clinched the National League West. Last month, while the Dodgers were in New York, Turner surprised Luke at his Little League game. Luke will be joined by his parents, Rich and Jeannine, and his brother, Logan, on Tuesday to throw out the first pitch.
"I met him in 2013 when I was with the Mets. He had just gone through chemo, and he came to a game and was on the field. He was handing out bracelets that said, 'Losing is not an option,' and I thought that was a really cool outlook while dealing with such misfortune," Turner said.
"I got to know his parents and brother and we've stayed in touch... This year, when they decided to give me a bobblehead night and they asked me who I wanted to throw out the first pitch, Luke was the first person that came to my mind. So it happened to work out perfectly, because Sept. 1 also is the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so it's even a bigger deal than the bobblehead or the first pitch, because we can spread awareness.
"I don't have my own charity. I've done some work with Ike Davis' charity, which isn't specifically about children. With Luke, he just lifts you up and inspires you, and he makes you want to be better with his outlook and his energy and passion for life, even though he's been dealt a bad hand."
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays will wear special gold Childhood Cancer Awareness Month T-shirts during batting practice prior to their game at Baltimore on Tuesday. After the game, Rays players will sign Majestic Athletic shirts that will be auctioned off at raysbaseball.com, with proceeds benefitting the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
"We are honored to help kick-off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with our players," said Rays President Brian Auld. "We're all proud to bring attention to such a worthy cause and to all those working to bring us closer to a cure."
New York Mets
The Mets will host their annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Kids Day on Tuesday at Citi Field, where more than 30 kids and their families will enjoy a special day. Bill Deacon and his grounds crew will teach the children how to rake the infield, prepare home plate and the pitcher's mound, and install the bases.
After a quick dash around the bases, the group will enjoy lunch, and then head back to the field for a baseball clinic. The Mets are longtime supporters of the New York chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as the charity is one of the beneficiaries of the club's annual Welcome Home Community Dinner and Fundraiser.
Several Twins players will visit Children's Hospital in Minneapolis from 10:45 a.m. to noon CT on Wednesday to meet with the patients and brighten their time there. The players include pitchers Phil Hughes, J.R. Graham and Ryan O'Rourke, and infielder Eduardo Escobar.
In Arizona on Sept. 12, the D-backs will donate $100,000 to Phoenix Children's Hospital, highlighting the second consecutive year of dedicating a game to Going Gold for pediatric cancer. Each ticket package purchased will include a D-backs gold replica jersey, and $5 from each ticket sold will benefit childhood cancer awareness programs, including kids taking the field with players.
There will be gold ribbon integration into all aspects of the game, game signage dedicated to Going Gold messaging, and player wives' videos of yearlong visits to the hospital.
One thousand doctors and nurses purchased their own tickets to attend. Eleven pediatric cancer organizations have main concourse interactive displays. There will be 50/50 raffle proceeds dedicated to the cause, and a significant social media push where fans can get involved by liking and sharing using the hashtag.
"We are thrilled to take part in Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for the second-straight year with our Going Gold initiative," said D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall. "Cancer affects every one of us, and is more prominent today than it ever has been for people of all ages. As a cancer survivor myself, I believe we should all prioritize the need to find cures through research and awareness. It is especially heartbreaking to see how many children are victims of the awful disease."
Chicago White Sox
On Wednesday, the White Sox will be joined by representatives from Comer Children's Hospital to help raise awareness at U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago White Sox Charities will present a $35,000 check to Comer to support its pediatric cancer research and treatment programs.
Seven childhood cancer patients, representing others battling the disease, will be recognized as special White Sox All-Stars as part of pregame festivities. The children will each receive a special gift package from a current team member. Two childhood cancer patients will announce, "Play ball!" from the field prior to the start of the game. In addition, complimentary tickets are being provided to families affected by pediatric cancer.
The Braves will Go Gold on Sept. 13, partnering with the Rally Foundation, Cure Childhood Cancer, Camp Sunshine and Curing Kids Cancer. All participants will receive a commemorative gold Braves Childhood Cancer Awareness Day T-shirt and gold sunglasses that say "We Go Gold for Childhood Cancer."
Each child affected by cancer will receive two free tickets, children and families will participate in an on-field parade, and the Braves will host a pregame reception in the right field patio for children and families.
Eight pre-selected survivors will take the field with the Braves during player announcements. One child from each partner organization will be selected to receive the "Diamond of Courage" award. This award will be given to children who have overcome the difficulties of being diagnosed with cancer and have remained positive. The award recipients will be honored on field during a pregame ceremony.
Proceeds from The Atlanta Braves Wives "Braves Players Favorite Things" auction will benefit partnering organizations. Also, $5 from every ticket sold through the CCAD package will benefit the partnering organizations. During the pregame ceremony, a check presentation will take place with the final amount (from baskets and tickets).
The Cubs will be hosting an online campaign empowering fans to become fundraisers for the following player foundations, all pertinent to this cause: The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, The Jason Motte Foundation, Jon Lester's NVRQT campaign and Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation. Fans can sign up for a player's team, and the highest fundraiser for each foundation gets two tickets and an opportunity to throw out a first pitch to the respective player on Sept. 20.
Cubs players will wear gold jerseys and hats that will be auctioned off online on Sept. 20. About 100 gold-colored baseballs signed by Motte, Maddon, Lester and Rizzo through the month of September will be sold online through Cubs Authentics. All of those player/manager charities will have a respective presence at that big Sept. 20 home game against the Cardinals.
In Houston, the Astros will partner with children's cancer organizations and devote steady time to the subject of pediatric cancer during their final homestand of the regular season, with events scheduled from Sept. 21-25. Each night during that stretch, the Astros will spotlight a different children's cancer group, such as Candlelighters, Ronald McDonald House and Sunshine Kids. Children undergoing cancer treatment will be featured in ceremonial first pitches, meet-and-greets with players and more.
This year, the Astros organization, including broadcasters, grounds crew and guest services, will wear gold ribbons furnished by the collective organizations. Additionally, the various organizations will distribute information and solicit support on the main concourse.
To the Indians, childhood cancer awareness is something that owner Paul Dolan has been passionate about for many years. He is co-chair of the new VeloSano race in Cleveland, a race that raises funds for local cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic. The Indians have helped promote this event in a variety of ways throughout the season, and as a presenting sponsor, the club fielded a team of riders and raised nearly $150,000. This year, most of the riders rode in support of Adriana Aviles. In addition to marketing assets and money raised through the ride, the Indians donated $50,000 to the VeloSano race.
Indians manager Terry Francona and some of his players also participated in a celebrity bartending event in The Corner Bar at Progressive Field post-game on June 24 to help raise funds for VeloSano. Prior to his involvement in VeloSano, Dolan and the Indians provided significant support to Kick It -- a local program that hosts kick ball tournaments with school age children across northeast Ohio to raise funds specifically for pediatric cancer research for many years. Kick It hosts an annual corporate Kick It tournament at Progressive Field, and on average the event raises from $70,000-$100,000.
Adriana Aviles, the young daughter of Indians pitcher Mike Aviles, was diagnosed with leukemia and has undergone treatment during this season. To support the Aviles family, Dolan, several players and front office staff all shaved their heads (nearly 100 people). Staff also wear orange bracelets as a sign of solidarity, for leukemia awareness.
Kansas City Royals
In Kansas City, the Royals grant the wish of a Dream Factory child each Wednesday in September (and throughout the season). These youngsters, who face life-altering challenges, meet Royals players, observe batting practice from the dugout, and enjoy the game and refreshments. Their Royals experience appears on the local KMBC-TV nightly newscast.
In Miami, the Marlins open a nine-game homestand on Friday night with a game against the Mets. Joining in this movement, the Marlins have designated it as Stand Up to Cancer/Pediatric Cancer Night. MLB is a founding donor of SU2C since 2008, partnering at the MLB and club level year-round.
The Rangers will host Childhood Cancer Awareness Night on Sept. 16 at Globe Life Park as the Astros visit that night during a four-game series. The Rangers have multiple charities involved and there will be a pregame presentation. The club has a first-pitch contest running online for kids who have battled cancer. Funds raised through a certain dollar amount for a group sales initiative are given to children's hospitals.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants will be running a public-service announcement on their scoreboard throughout September, asking fans to support this cause and to go to cancer.org. On Aug. 13, the Emilio Nares Foundation (ENF) and the Giants, represented by outfielder Gregor Blanco, teamed up to distribute "Loving Tabs" healing T-shirts to patients at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. ENF's "Loving Tabs" are modern T-shirts designed to facilitate access to medication to children with cancer. They provide patients with a sense of "normalcy" when children are receiving grueling chemotherapy.
San Diego Padres
The Padres have various events scheduled during September to help raise pediatric cancer awareness, and one of those is a first-of-its-kind event called Pedal at the Park. Registration is $50, includes elements such as participation in the one-hour class on the playing field (bikes provided with both cages and SPD-compatible clip in pedals) and tickets to the Padres vs. Diamondbacks game on Sept. 26.
In support of Pedal the Cause San Diego, net proceeds from every registration purchased will benefit local cancer research organizations, including Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Rady Children's Hospital.
In September, Padres players Matt Kemp and Andrew Cashner will continue their ongoing "Kemp's Kids" efforts to help children with cancer. Kemp and the Padres are hosting kids and families from the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a day at the ballpark each month this season, with a long list of special access enjoyment.
Each homestand, Cashner hosts patients and families from Rady Children's Hospital in his personal suite at Petco Park. About six VIPs (Very Important Padres -- patients from Rady Children's) are joined by family, doctors, nurses and their support network. The kids enjoy the game with hosted food and beverages, and a pregame visit from Cashner. Each child receives a custom T-shirt.
"Seemingly every player has encountered a child who has gone through this ordeal," Steinberg said. "Whether you meet them through Make-A-Wish or the players visiting the hospitals, there have been so many players who have quietly fostered very touching relationships, and in some cases promised families that we'll never forget the ones they lost."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.