June 15, 2009 | Posted by Anthony Castrovince
Cancer had invaded young Quinn Clarke's body once when he was 2 years old, and he successfully fought it off. When it returned in a more aggressive and rare form last summer, the 9-year-old Quinn was fed up.
"Mom, we need to have a cure for cancer," Quinn told his mother, Allison, one day last August. "What if we had a kickball game to raise money to cure cancer?"
As Allison put it, "Only a 9-year-old could come up with that idea."
And it was brilliant.
Five days later, 500 people of all ages from Quinn's neighborhood in Chagrin Falls showed up for a kickball tournament that generated thousands of dollars for Flashes of Hope, the non-profit organization Allison and her husband, Kip, founded to raise money for pediatric cancer research. And on Friday, the Indians announced their involvement with a new community initiative that takes Quinn's idea to new heights.
Together with Flashes of Hope, the Tribe will sell "Kick It" kickball kits for $29.95 through kick-it.org and all Indians Team Shops. The kits include a kickball, banner and buttons, wristbands and temporary tattoos, a how-to-play guide and a donation envelope. Basically, they have everything you need to set up a kickball gathering to help kick cancer to the curb.
All proceeds will benefit pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer research.
"We had been looking to expand what Cleveland Indians Charities and the Cleveland Indians do for a while now," team president Paul Dolan said. "We wanted to find something to address a real medical cause in the community. We came across Flashes of Hope, and we found the combination of their cause and their approach so unique. We just knew this was the right fit."
All summer, kids can register their kickball teams at Indians.com and kick-it.org to hold games in their community from July until September. Certain teams of kids will then be selected to play "Kick It" games at Progressive Field after five Sunday home games in August and September, beginning Aug. 2.
To get the kickball season going in earnest, manager Eric Wedge and several Indians players, including Cliff Lee, Jamey Carroll, Jensen Lewis, Trevor Crowe and Josh Barfield, took part in a game against Quinn and his friends in the outfield grass at Progressive Field on Friday afternoon.
"We're right in our element here," Wedge said. "Everybody played kickball. There was always somebody's backyard where you could go play kickball or whiffle ball. It's a great idea and a fantastic program. These kids were at the hospital getting treatment this morning, and now they're out here playing kickball with the Cliff Lees of the world. That's pretty neat stuff."
Lee's involvement was a natural fit. His 8-year-old son, Jaxon, is a childhood leukemia survivor.
"I probably haven't played kickball since P.E. in junior high," Lee said. "To see these kids get out here and have fun and enjoy themselves is great."
So, which Tribe player is the best at kickball? Quinn couldn't say for sure. But he did know one thing with certainty.
"Cliff Lee's really easy to steal off of," he said.
Nothing like a little kickball smack talk.
Hey, it was all in good fun. And it's certainly for a good cause.
Quinn is battling a rare form of cancer known as a triton tumor. His mother said only about 100 people in the world have this illness, which is resistant to chemotherapy. Quinn is currently undergoing experimental treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.
"It's tough," he said of his illness. "I don't like missing school and all my friends."
But kickball, he discovered, is a great way to get all his friends together.
"It's a sport anybody can play," he said.
That point was proven during those games in Chagrin Falls last summer.
"We had the Chagrin Fire Department playing," Allison recalled. "They were getting beaten by these third graders, and they were not happy about it."
Allison looks back at that day, when a community rallied around a kickball cause, and is in awe of the power of one little boy's great idea. It's an idea that has blossomed to the point where a Major League club is now whole-heartedly involved.
"Any parent that has a child with cancer will tell you they have the most amazing attitude," Allison said. "They wake up every day with hope, and that helps their parents wake up every day with hope. The fact that he immediately thought of his favorite game as a way to help cure cancer makes complete sense to him, and it makes complete sense to us. It's so simple. And I told him, 'I'm so glad you didn't say let's have a walk.' This is a lot more fun than a walk.
"I mean, who doesn't love to play kickball?"
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