'Play-4-the-Cure' has brought two towns, and all of us, together
This is about faith. Not faith of convenience. But the kind of faith that is a lifeline, a light for the way. All we have. All we hold on to. It is faith in all of us. Faith that we all do what we can against cancer.
We fight. We pray. We play. We cry. We laugh. We volunteer. We love. We donate. We support. We believe. And we are steadfast. The patients need us. All of us. Their families need us. All of us. To do what we can.
And so they were all wearing pink again Wednesday at Stonington High, another "Play-4-the-Cure" softball game that gets better with each rendition. Stonington vs. Waterford. Two teams, two communities like all the others, really: affected every day and every way by cancer.
We all know somebody.
As evidenced in Stonington junior Meagan Dreher's video dedicated to the game, the most inspiring 12 minutes, 32 seconds of the whole year so far. Dreher interviewed players and coaches from both schools as a primer to a game that's so much more.
"What struck me," Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle said, "was to hear every girl say a name. Everyone's been impacted. There were names. Not just 'I'm playing for survivors.' Names. That's what stings you. Our whole dugout has someone."
This is what some of the kids said: Aunt Angie. My sister. Mr. Eudy. My mom. My Aunt Jan. Grandpa. Grandma. My cousin Michelle. My nana. My nonna. Aunt Ann. My great grandmother. And on it went.
The game originated a few years ago, the brainchild of Houle and Waterford coach Liz Sutman, both of whom have lost loved ones to cancer. This began in tribute to former Stonington great Lisa Wentz, for whom a prestigious scholarship is named, who graduated in 1988 and died in 1990, and Marissa Walker of Waterford, Sutman's niece, who is 14 now and a cancer survivor, battling it since she was 9.
"The bonds with Lisa continue today," childhood friend Mike O'Farrell, now Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's Director of Public Relations, said on Dreher's video. "Lisa's here. She's a part of everything. … This is not about remembering her as much as it is sharing her. People need to understand that if you are fortunate enough to win Lisa's scholarship, they need to know what she's about. Not was about. She's not walking through the door, but it doesn't change her qualities."
Walker was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in February, 2009. Now she is cancer free with an expandable prosthetic in her leg, yearning to play the game she watched Wednesday.
"I know she kills to play," her sister Kazi, a Waterford pitcher, said in the video. "For me to watch her have to watch, it kills me. She's the toughest person I ever met. She's the best athlete in our family, you could ask anybody. It hurts me because I wish she could show it. She doesn't get to show it the way she wants to."
But this is why there is faith.
Against a disease that, to this second, occupies our thoughts and prayers. The Waterford kids played Wednesday in memory of Josh Eudy, 35, their volleyball coach and history teacher who died of cancer this past Christmas Day.
Waterford senior Elaina Sullivan: "I think of him every time I play. I want to make him proud."
Then came the recent news that Laura Scarpa, an operating room nurse at L+M and member of East Lyme High's 1994 state championship team, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
On her 35th birthday.
Scarpa's first round of chemotherapy was Monday. She was at Wednesday's game.
"I want everyone to know how much sports are helping me," Scarpa said. "Being an athlete growing up helps me with my mindset. I look at this like, 'game on.' I'm going to do it. I'm confident about it. I'll be disciplined. That's what sports taught me. That competitive spirit."
Scarpa is writing a blog about her fight. The first installment, seen on her Facebook page, ends with "Hakuna Matata, no worries everyone. I am going to kick ass and take names later. I am dubbing my blog, 'Buddha Babe,' to embrace my spiritual journey, bald and beautiful, as I am continuously reminded I am more than my body."
If you would like to donate to Scarpa's fight, please do so at www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/hbl4/team-scarps.
Remember: this is about us. All of us. Doing what we can.
Just as Wednesday was about a bunch of kids doing what they could. And learning enduring lessons watching kids from Camp Rising Sun, a camp for children with cancer, out there throwing out the first pitch before the game.
"I've played in this all four years and nothing will touch you like seeing those kids who are fighting cancer come out on the field, fighting through that," Stonington senior Theresa Kane said. "We played for kids who can't play. That's all that matters to me. We played for something bigger than winning or losing."
Or as Sutman told her team: "We can do this today because we can. And we're going to do this for those who can't, or can't anymore or won't be able to."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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