Members of the Susquehanna University Softball team had no idea what they were getting into when they had the idea of starting a GoFundMe campaign to bring Olivia Rogers - their adopted teammate - to Florida with them for the annual Spring Training trip to Kissimmee, Florida.
"We (Leigh Ann Greenwald and I) went to visit Olivia in the hospital and she was in a lot of pain that day," said Susquehanna senior Emilie Boman. "The only thing that seemed to distract her from the pain was talking about the upcoming trip to Florida. Her eyes lit up (when we talked about Florida) and we both just knew we had to get her there. We would do anything to make her happy."
And that's how it started. Olivia, who was diagnosed with Leukemia a little more than a year ago was paired with the Susquehanna Softball team through an organization named Friends of Jaclyn that was started to help children battling cancer to be "adopted" by sports teams to help them through the pain and suffering involved in the treatments.
The friendships that have come out of these adoptions number in the thousands and often are lifelong.
On that trip home from the hospital and decision was made to start the fundraising campaign and it did not take long to grow exponentially.
The campaign raised nearly $4,000 in just a few days and more importantly, was shared through social media and quickly drew the attention of the professional softball community from across the country and especially the Scrap Yard Fast Pitch softball organization formerly known as the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs - an independent team that features some of the best players in the country. A total of $6,300 was raised in the GoFundMe campaign.
Soon after Scrap Yard Fast Pitch became involved, Matt Lunsford, the agent for several of the softball players and also an agent for some of the Atlanta Braves players, also jumped on board. The fundraising effort was all of a sudden taken to a new level and the money raised was not going to be needed for a majority of the trip to Florida.
Scrap Yard Fast Pitch donated plane tickets for Olivia and her parents, Spring Break Sports contributed by waiving its commission on the housing provided for the family and also helped with the transportation and tickets to Universal Studios. The Atlanta Braves - including star Charlie Culberson - invited Olivia and her family to Spring Training and gave her the chance to meet Culberson, a personalized Atlanta Braves jersey and invited her to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
"It was fun to watch things happen," said Head Coach Brad Posner. "The fundraising effort and the connections made with the people and organizations - especially Scrap Yard Fast Pitch - that jumped on board is amazing. Olivia had a great time and I'm sure she will not soon forget her trip to Florida."
Scrap Yard Fast Pitch went a step further in the process and flew one of their star players and community service coordinator Nerissa Myers to Florida to spend time with Olivia and her family.
Olivia was able to visit three different Disney properties including Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom during her visit and also made a stop at Universal Studios with several of her adopted sisters from the Susquehanna team. She also attended the Susquehanna games and joined in the cheers from the dugout.
"It was amazing to see Olivia's huge smile during the entire week," said Greenwald. "She was in our dugout helping us cheer the whole week and it truly lifted everyone up, regardless of what was going on in the game. It was so easy to see how grateful she was for the entire experience, it's definitely something she and the entire team will never forget."
Now that the trip is over the challenge is on to keep creating memories for Olivia. And at the same time, create more memories for the players whose lives have been changed by this experience.
Friends of Jaclyn is a non-profit organization that pairs children battling brain cancer and other forms of pediatric cancer with teams from around the country. Their mission is to provide love support and friendship for children battling these insidious diseases. Their motto is 'Live in the moment, Play in the moment'. To learn more about Friends of Jaclyn, go to www.friendsofjaclyn.org
Scrap Yard Fast Pitch was grown out of a desire to make professional softball opportunities for Women to make a living playing the game they love. It will begin competition in the summer of 2018, providing elite softball players the opportunity to pursue a professional career and inspire the next generation of professionals. Located in the Houston area, the Scrap Yard Organization and its players are committed to demonstrating leadership in community involvement, entertainment, and professionalism.
To learn more about scrap yard fast pitch, go to www.scrapyardfastpitch.com