Austin and Dustin (John Deputy photo)
My day job chronicling the goings-on at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund allows me an inside look at the one-of-a-kind relationship between the Red Sox and New England's favorite charity. So on days like yesterday when the Red Sox bullpen blows a four-run lead in the eighth inning, I try to remember all the good that the team does to lift the spirits of pediatric and adult cancer patients -- like this:
The timing couldn’t have been better for the 15th annual trip to Boston Red Sox spring training last month – delays and all.
While New Englanders were dealing with one of the snowiest, windiest Marches in recent memory, 42 clinic patients aged 13 and up hugged their families goodbye in the lobby of Dana-Farber's Yawkey Center for Cancer Care on a Friday afternoon and boarded a bus bound for Logan International Airport. Their final destination was Fort Myers, Florida, and JetBlue Park at Fenway South; accompanying them as clinicians and fellow adventurers were 12 doctors, four nurses, and six clinic staff.
In addition to meeting Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, and more than a dozen other Red Sox players during their excursion, the clinic group enjoyed watching an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles, cooling off on the water slide and lazy river at their hotel pool, and dining in a suite at JetBlue Park. When a Florida rarity – rain – forced the postponement of an all-clinic batting practice, the Dana-Farber crew improvised by heading to the local bowling alley for some indoor fun.
The yearly trip was conceived in 2002 by Todd Schwartz, who felt that he and fellow teenage patients would enjoy bonding away from the hospital and their parents. Schwartz did not live to see his dream come to fruition, but trip leader Lisa Scherber, director of Patient and Family Programs at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorder Center, says each sojourn south is a tribute to his wisdom.
Zack and Xander (John Deputy photo)
“After all these years, I still make it a point to step back and just watch when we’re on these trips,” says Scherber, “We know that even for those young patients who are nervous about being away from their parents, flying for the first time, or getting treatment away from the hospital, this is going to be a life-altering event – a chance to make wonderful memories and friendships with other kids who know what they are going through. We appreciate our sponsors including the WEEI Jimmy Fund Golf Tournament, JetBlue, and the Red Sox for making this incredible weekend happen.”
Even a delay in the clinic group’s return flight to Boston worked out. While waiting at the airport on Sunday night, the contingent spotted former Red Sox pitching legend Pedro Martinez – who came over and spent nearly a half-hour chatting with the group and signing autographs.
“We didn’t wind up getting back to Boston until after 1:00 am Monday, and eight of the kids on the trip had clinic visits at 9:00 am that same morning,” Scherber says with a laugh. “They were still on a high – we all were.”
Brock and the Gang