In spite of my personal opinion, the charity that I have founded is quite small, even though the issues we are focused on tackling are quite large. I am constantly asking for help, legal advice, proofreaders, picture takers, blog writers, money counters, and so much more. And, the crazy thing is that while these individuals bend over backwards to assist, not one person associated with OMT16 gets paid. The money we spend is our own, and clearly there is no claim to fame considering OMT16’s social media following consists of about 400 of my closest friends. So, with that being said you might be scratching your head and thinking…“why do you do this?”.
Well… I can’t speak on behalf of the amazing individuals who have volunteered their time, and quite frankly, an arm and a leg here and there, to get this crazy dream of mine off and running. But, I can answer why I do this. That answer is simple. So simple you can say it in one breath. So simple that letters of the alphabet aren’t even involved. So simple that it takes less than 2 seconds to roll off your tongue.
The reason why I do this is 5.29.14.
You might be wondering what crazy code this could be, or what these numbers exactly mean. But, to me 5.29.14 is a single day. It is a single day out of the totality of 365 days that occur in a year. It is a single day out of the 8,000 plus days I have been living. It is a single day that changed me for the rest of my life.
It was a gorgeous day. The temperature was warm, the breeze was cool, and the sky was blue.
I was on my way home from work, when a family friend informed me that I should probably give my mom a call. Immediate panic overcame me, and I am sure you all can relate to that stomach dropping, breath shortening, and all-consuming type of feeling. It’s almost as if all the butterflies inside of you just suddenly die….ya know? But, to my dismay I obliged, and I called my mom.
No matter how many positive, good thoughts I forced myself to think, I still couldn’t shake the “something bad is about to happen” fret. Hands shaking, voice tremoring, eyes filling, I dialed…and when mom answered the phone, I immediately knew I was right. Something bad was about to happen.
In a calm, and soft spoken tone of voice, my mom…my amazing, brave and strong mom…informed me that my younger brother had cancer. In that exact moment, everything stopped. My world stood still. I felt lifeless. Powerless. Helpless.
My mom then went on to attempt to reassure me, that everything would be okay, but not one cell in my body believed her. I was too scared, too sad, and too angry. Then, suddenly I heard the front door shut, and I realized that to my little sister, it was simply a normal school day and she was just getting home.
I wiped the tears from under my eyes, took a deep breath, and walked into the kitchen. At first she greeted me with a smile, but clearly I didn’t do a good job of hiding what I was feeling because she knew right away something wasn’t right. I gave her a hug, and sat her down and, oh my God, I will never, ever forget the look on her little innocent face when I told her that her older brother had cancer. I could tell she was trying to be strong, but the tears filling her eyes, and her ghostly, white skin gave it away. She was just as scared as I was, and had absolutely know idea what to think. She was too young to even know what cancer was, let alone comprehend what our brother having it meant.
After pulling ourselves together, we slipped on our purple, #16, Christian Brothers Academy baseball t-shirts with the name “Sheridan” stretched across the back, and headed to the local stadium where Jack was supposed to be playing in the Championship game.
When walking into the stadium, the announcer was introducing all the players to the field. “#26 Camillo Spinoso, #42 Nate Burns….#16 Jack Sheridan…”. I looked at Charlie. Her head was down. I looked on the field at his teammates. Their heads were looking around with confusion. I looked around the stadium. Parents were turning to each other and asking questions. In that moment, my heart completely broke, and the worst part of it all was knowing that Charlie’s heart was also breaking.
At the end of the game we went to the exit of the stadium to say hello to a few of Jack’s friends on the team. One by one they left the dugout and started walking towards us. As they got closer, I could tell that each and every one of them had tears in their eyes, and it wasn’t because they had just lost the game.
The last boy to approach us was Jack’s best friend. This is where my heart broke for a second time that night. I don’t think I have ever seen so many emotions on the face of a 15 year old kid. He was filled with tears, while also looking angry and scared.
He wanted his best friend, his teammate, his brother, to be okay.
Later that night, Charlie and I made our way to the hospital. The moment we walked into the pediatric oncology center at Golisano Children’s Hospital, it finally sunk in.
My mom’s only son had cancer. My dad’s throwing partner had cancer. My sister’s hero had cancer. Matthew Sheridan’s cousin had cancer. Nate Burns’ friend had cancer. Mrs. Mannions’ student had cancer. Dick Woodridges player had cancer. Tom Pirros teammate had cancer. Brady Sheridan’s owner had cancer.
Initially, the only thing on the minds of those affected by a pediatric cancer diagnosis is survival, as it should be. But one thing that is often forgotten, in between the hair loss, the 20 pills a night, the chemotherapy being pumped into their blood, the inability to eat, the pale skin, and so much more…is that fact that yes, these kids are cancer patients…but at the end of the day they are still just kids.
With the help of athletes and raving fans all over the country, OMT16 serves as that reminder that yes, if you are a pediatric cancer patient you need to fight like hell to win that battle, but you also are still just a kid, and it is OK to just want to be a kid.
No one should have to pick sitting in a hospital room over playing in the sectional championship baseball game.
No one should have to pick laying on the couch at home over going to their high school prom.
No one should have to watch their little girl lose all her hair before she turns 8.
No one should have to watch as morphine is pumped into their child.
No one, at the age of 16, should have to think about how the medicine they have to take might make them unable to ever have children.
No one should have to listen to an announcer say their brothers name and then watch as no one runs onto the field.
No one should be so worried about the survival of another person that they can’t eat or sleep and all they do is cry.
No one should ever feel like all the butterflies inside of them are dead.
No one should have to pick being a cancer patient over being a kid.
Unfortunately, each year approximately 15,700 children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with cancer and sadly 12% of those children will not survive. That means that today alone, in this country, approximately 43 children will be diagnosed. On 5.29.14, my brother was one of those 43, and that is why I am doing this.
Please considering joining with OMT16, to show your support for those 43 other children who will be diagnosed today.