June 15, 2009 | Posted by Dale Meggas, Sun News
CLEVELAND Quinn Clarke knows he is in an uphill battle with cancer.
The 9-year-old from Chagrin Falls is just one of 100 in the world with his particular cancer -- the connective tissue-related rhabdomyosarcoma -- but that has not stopped him from the good fight.
"Quinn was diagnosed as a 2-year-old and was in remission," said mother Allison. "We were shocked to find out the cancer has returned and he is in for a tough fight."
That fight has taken on a new approach.
"Quinn knows the situation," added Allison during a press conference at Progressive Field to announce a joint effort by Cleveland Indians Charities and Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization she and husband Kip formed after their son's initial diagnosis.
"I'm the 'fun' director, while Kip is on the Internet finding information on cancer research," explained Allison when asked about their delegation of duties.
"When we found out Quinn again was diagnosed with cancer, he told me that we have to find a cure. I asked what he wanted to do and he said, 'Raise money playing kickball.' "
That's how the next chapter began.
Quinn's initial kickball game raised more than $13,000. With notice of just five days, Quinn and organizers got 500 people to play kickball and raise that amount for Flashes of Hope, which the Clarkes formed in 2001 after a family friend died from cancer.
Flashes of Hope and its charity fundraising arm, Kick-It, now are part of the CIC roster of charities that benefit from being under the Tribe's banner.
"We have been looking for a medical cause to align ourselves with," said Indians President Paul Dolan.
"It is a good fit for both of us," added Dolan, speaking before a number of young cancer patients anxiously awaiting their turn to play kickball with a group of Indians players and their manager, Eric Wedge.
Kickball became the connection between Quinn's disease and his school. It's the game of choice at Gurney Elementary School in Chagrin Falls, which teaches kindergarten through third grade.
During his illness, Quinn was unable to play that game, a big part of daily life at Gurney.
"Mr. Q. has made kickball a big thing for years at the school," said Allison Clarke, referring to the Gurney teacher strictly by that affectionate term.
"For many years, at the end of the school year, Mr. Q. has held a kickball tournament," she continued. "Years later, kids remember how they did in that tournament.
"For example, an outstanding athlete at Chagrin Falls High asked Quinn how he did in the tournament. This athlete, who has played in some big games, still remembered that his team lost -- and the score.
"He said it was the toughest loss he has ever been involved with. That's how big the tournament is."
With that, Quinn, who has two younger sisters, Gigi, 8, and Sarah, 6, wanted to find a way to raise money for cancer research after treatment for his second round was not going well. He quickly told Allison that kickball might be a good way to do it.
Flashes of Hope was spurred when Allison asked the family who had lost its child if it had a portrait of their youngster. At the same time, she realized she did not have a portrait of Quinn.
Since that time, Flashes of Hope has photographed thousands of youngsters. It has hopes of photographing another 4,500 young cancer patients this year, working with more than three dozen children's hospitals across the country.
At the press conference, each of nearly a dozen young cancer patients anxiously handed out their photo buttons to Indians players, who took the time to join them in a game of kickball on the Progressive Field grass.
Kick-It has become the signature fundraiser for Flashes of Hope. Its goal is to raise $100 million for pediatric cancer research.
The Indians are encouraging fans to get involved via their own fundraising kickball games, leading to a chance to play on the grass of Progressive Field, awarded by random drawing to lucky teams.
To participate, register at indians.com or kick-it.org online. Kits with instructions, ball, colored wristbands for each team and directions on how to play are $29.95 at Indians team shops. Purchase includes two free tickets to an Indians game.
Free kits are available to schools and children undergoing treatment for pediatric cancer.
To earn a chance at playing kickball at Progressive Field, teams earn one entry for each $100 raised for Kick-It.
Kickball games are scheduled on five of the Indians' "Kids Sundays": Aug. 2, Detroit; Aug. 23, Seattle; Sept. 6, Minnesota; Sept. 13, Kansas City; and Sept. 27, Baltimore.
Teams will be notified by the prior Monday to when they will play on the following Sunday.
Three age divisions are eligible for play: 7 and younger, 8-15 and 16-25. The youngest squads play Sept. 27 and the oldest Aug. 23. The 8-15 bracket's dates are Aug. 2, Sept. 6 and Sept. 13.
Donate now and brighten the lives of children with cancer.
Send a personal appeal to your friends and family.