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Baseball at bat for cancer kids

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There is joy in metro-ville this week, after Major League Baseball announced a fund-raising drive to net about $1 million for childhood cancer research.

The drive, called the Commissioner's Initiatives for Kids, will start Saturday and will benefit CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of Major League Baseball.

The initiative can be credited in part to the dogged work of Norcross mother Kristin Connor and New York Mets pitcher and Alpharetta resident Tom Glavine.

"These are people who went way beyond the call," Connor said. "I am just amazed at the dedication of Tommy Glavine and the commissioner of baseball [Bud Selig] and how they have made this thing happen, and happen so fast."

Connor has worked since November to increase fund-raising for research for cures for childhood cancer. Her son Brandon, who turns 3 next month, had been diagnosed with a rare but insidious cancer called neuroblastoma.

On the eve of risky surgery to remove a tumor from his spine, doctors found that the mass had inexplicably --- and some say miraculously --- disappeared.

Connor vowed then not to forget the other children and families whose lives are turned upside down by cancer.

Jane and Phil Hennessy were among them. Their son, Will, now 7, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in January 2002. The Hennessys led Connor to Tom and Chris Glavine, who had supported the Hennessy family in their son Will's struggle.

Glavine pitched a plan to Major League Baseball officials to have a fund-raising day for childhood cancer and contacted players on all 29 other teams to enlist their support.

To raise the money, Major League Baseball is donating 1 million baseball tickets over three weeks. Fans can get tickets to games in each MLB market by donating a minimum of $1 a ticket.

Tickets will be distributed via Boys & Girls Clubs of America locations, through MLB's Web site and each team's office. The number of tickets available per club will vary based on each club's season ticket base and the number of individual game tickets already sold. The Atlanta Braves will donate 40,000 tickets.

Also, all 30 teams have planned special days to raise awareness of childhood cancer during the three weeks. Some teams will let children with cancer throw out the first pitch. Players' helmets will bear a gold ribbon, the symbol of childhood cancer. The league is considering a special childhood cancer jersey that could be autographed by a team and later auctioned to raise money. Also, special bases will be designed to be auctioned.

Copyright 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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