"Potential" is a word you hear a lot in baseball. When you're hot, you're exceeding your potential. When you're in a slump, you're not living up to it. It's always following you, and sometimes haunting you. During Game Three of the World Series Friday night when the Mets host the Royals, and Citi Field is electric, there will come a point bigger than the game itself and potential will take on a new meaning.
We've all seen those powerful "in-game" moments where 50,000 people in a baseball stadium symbolically "stand up to cancer." Every fan is holding a placard inscribed with the name of a loved one - a mother, a neighbor, a friend, a son-- lost to, or fighting this disease. Each placard represents someone's story: many are heartbreakingly tragic, others remarkably triumphant. We all have in one way or another experienced both sides of cancer's story.
What makes this year's World Series moment particularly special is Major League Baseball and Stand Up To Cancer are shining a much-needed spotlight on pediatric and childhood cancers and the dire need for more (and better) childhood cancer research. Together, they are unveiling a new TV spot called "Potential" where you see footage of current Major League stars - Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, Bryce Harper, Felix Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen and David Price in their youth baseball days. At the end of each video, you'll see kids currently fighting cancer, bravely stepping up to the plate and embracing life. The idea is that every kid deserves a shot to fulfill his or her potential. After watching it, I promise you will feel a lump in your throat and I hope it inspires you into action.
This is a cause very near and dear to my heart. I am on the Advisory Board for CURE Childhood Cancer, a terrific grassroots organization based out of Atlanta that is working to conquer childhood cancer through research, education and family support. Like most of the great things in my life, my involvement in cancer advocacy started with my wife, Christine. More than a decade ago, my wife learned that Will Hennessy, a Kindergarten-aged boy at our kids' school, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare disease where cancer is found in the bone or soft tissue. Like many families at the school, we volunteered to bring Will's family some dinner one night. Around the same time, we learned that another boy, Carter Martin, was also diagnosed with the same rare form of cancer. Will is now thriving in college -I'm so proud of him. Carter passed away at age seven. All of us were devastated, but none as much as Carter's mom, who's since become part of our inspiration for "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes," a benefit to honor the mothers of kids with cancer.
Two young boys. Same disease. Two very different outcomes. I believe we have the power to change this.
We are in this crucial time where science and technology are advancing at a breathtaking pace, but the funding is inadequate to fully harness those advances. When we see kids who have lost their hair to the rigors of chemotherapy, our hearts all go out to them and their families. In our minds we think, "Well, government, science, medicine and drug companies must already be doing everything they can to help that child." But that's not the case. Only 4 percent of federal cancer research funding goes to childhood cancer research. There is limited funding for new drug treatments for childhood cancer from pharmaceutical companies. When you talk to parents with kids who have cancer, that's the most frustrating part for them. Everyone assumes we're doing everything we can, but we're just not. These families need help from all of us.
Just like in a close game where your team is down, and out of nowhere a ball drops in for a single, you can feel the momentum begin to shift. I am hopeful that's where we are with childhood cancer research. Many years ago, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and I were on opposite sides of the bargaining table. He was a tough and skilled negotiator. I ran into him at the Hall of Fame last summer, and we got to talking about how baseball can do more on pediatric cancers. It was clear we're on the same side on this one. He's really invested in this. At Friday night's game, MLB and SU2C will use the global stage of the Fall Classic to emphasize the need for more research on the pediatric/childhood side, and that's going to mean a lot to (and do a lot for) the kids who have cancer and the parents who love them. I'm very grateful for their efforts.
My wife and I have a goal to make the month of September "gold" in honor of childhood cancer, similar to the way companies and citizens recognize and go pink in October for breast cancer. Awareness is the start. I always think back to Carter and Will. As a family, we carry both of their stories in our hearts. We want every kid diagnosed with cancer to survive and live a happy life. I believe this is possible. We have the potential. Let's live up to it.
Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. To view the PSA please visit su2c.org/potential. To learn more about the impact of Stand Up To Cancer, please visit su2c.org/impact.