"They're fighting with me," Justin said.
Justin is 9. He has spent most of his life beating neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system, and you've seen the boy from Aurora, Colo., in the Stand Up To Cancer and MasterCard TV commercial co-starring cancer survivor Jon Lester of the Red Sox.
Don't cry for Justin. He is smiling. He is inspiring. He surprised his mom by surviving fourth grade. He would rather you got involved to make a difference.
Justin is in his sixth year of "research studies," and is cancer-free right now. He stood outside their suite and got his picture taken with "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips. Justin is the kind of boy Game 1 of this Fall Classic was all about, a face of a fight that has affected so many of us, when a whole stadium rose as one again for a live FOX moment.
Major League Baseball's annual rollout of community initiatives for Games 1-4 of the World Series so began with a focus on SU2C and the overall quest to cure the disease in our lifetimes.
"I think it's really good, because it will help me, my friends and all the other kids that are sick from cancer," Justin said.
Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every three minutes, and in the U.S., one in five children diagnosed with cancer will not survive.
Watching Justin show off his eight SU2C placards, SU2C co-founder Sue Schwartz was beyond moved. That organization, which has grown with Major League Baseball as its founding sponsor, partnered recently with the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity dedicated to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, and together they joined up to fund a Pediatric Cancer Dream Team.
That is when Justin's story was told to SU2C, and now he has become a key figure in the fight.
"He's OK today," Schwartz said. "And every day he's OK gives us another day to find a cure."
Accompanying Justin to Game 1 was Lori, his father, Jeff, and his 11-year-old sister, Kelly. He also has a 21-year-old sister, Kayla. Coincidentally, another "Kayla" was written on one of his SU2C placards.
Justin went through them like a deck of cards, proud of them, seemingly unfazed by loss.
"We know the likelihood of it coming back is high," his mom said, "but he's happy. In May of this year, I didn't think he would survive fourth grade. Now we're here. He did a commercial and now he is at the World Series. He's my miracle baby. He's got an awesome spirit and he is inspired every day."
Miracles are possible, and that is why the Game 1 theme was fighting cancer.
The involvement of players during the game was first seen a year ago in Texas. Once again, MLB talked to team personnel in advance, inviting them to feel free to fill out cards as well, and to hold them up after the fifth inning. They did it across the board. Ryan Vogelsong, for example, held up a card that read: "My Dad." In the stands, fans told their own stories.
It was one moment within a whole day of activity targeted to this subject, and a poignant example of why MLB is using its greatest stage as a platform to activate citizens in hopes of making a difference together. Game 2 on Thursday will be dedicated to Welcome Back Veterans. For Game 3, MLB will support youth, especially those in underserved communities, with programs including Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Breaking Barriers. Game 4 will celebrate community service, with a focus on Habitat for Humanity.
Fans watching Game 1 on FOX were encouraged to declare who they stand up for on Facebook, by going to istandupfor.su2c.org, by using #IStandUpFor on Twitter or by going to SU2C.org to learn more about how to donate and get involved. The flow of social activity and conversations supporting #IStandUpFor, including Twitter and Instagram, is accessible at MLB.com's Stand Up To Cancer social media hub.
A commercial starring Steve Carell, Colin Hanks and Ken Jeong "standing up to cancer" is airing during the World Series. Carell, Hanks and Jeong, all of whom have become SU2C ambassadors due to their personal connections to the cause, took to the field at Boston's Fenway Park to recreate signature moments in baseball history, helping fans across the nation to believe that anything is possible.
On Wednesday morning, former pitchers Vida Blue and Bill Laskey, Giants officials and MLB and SU2C staff visited the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, which specializes in treating cancer patients. It was the second such visit in the last three years, as MLB did the same at the 2010 World Series in San Francisco.
That group was joined by the Starlight Children's Foundation to place a Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit for young patients. The Fun Center is designed to combat the anxiety and weariness faced by hospitalized children, and includes a Nintendo Wii gaming system, a TV and a DVD player.
MasterCard gave fans entering AT&T Park a special SU2C World Series-themed bracelet to wear throughout the game to show support. On the field prior to the game, MasterCard presented a $4.1 million contribution to SU2C, signifying the culmination of the Dine and Be Generous campaign. Through the program, which launched at the All-Star Game, MasterCard made a contribution to SU2C when cardholders spent $10 or more for a meal on their MasterCard cards.