MATTHEWS, N.C. -- Like every game, this baseball game is important. The energy out on the field is contagious, the kids, like all kids, are wiggly and excited. But none more so than baseball fan Kate Zidanic. After all, this tournament is in her honor.
At age 5, Kate was given the life changing news none of us ever want our children to get: the lump behind ear was growing. Kate’s mom Cindy remembers the moment.
“I was convinced, you know, the saying that God only gives you what you can handle. I have MS and have had it now for seven years, and so we’re a family already dealing with that. We’re not going to get that too. I just told myself, we’re not going to get that too!” Cindy says. “And he just said, ‘We have confirmed it’s Cancer.’”
That was a Friday in May 2011. The following Monday, 5-year-old Kate began chemotherapy for Lymphoma. It was tough on everyone, especially Kate’s older brother.
Cindy says of that moment when Kate lost her hair, “So when he came home and she took her hat off and he saw it was all gone, he started crying. And I told him, ‘Walk away because she is okay with this. You can go wherever you need to, and cry, but don’t let her see you, because she’s okay.’”
As the guest of honor Friday, Kate will throw out the first pitch to get the tournament going. She is a reminder of real courage, real competition and real life.
One year ago, 8-year-old Drew Van Dyke was having trouble seeing. Double vision was plaguing his game, but his parents and doctors figured glasses would most likely fix the problem. But they soon learned, the problem wasn’t Drew’s eyes. An MRI would later confirm something more serious. Drew’s Mom, Dawn, recalls the moment she saw the images.
“And he flipped the screen and there was this bright white glowing tumor in the middle of his brain, and I looked at the screen and it said 9:10. And I will never forget that.”
The news, like Kate’s, was cancer. The family doctor then explained Cancer to Drew.
Dawn Van Dyke, tearing up, relives that moment.
“And he said to Drew, ‘Do you have any questions?’ And he looked at Dr. Spies, who he has seen his entire life, and said, ‘Am I going to die?’ And then Dr. Spies said, ‘I knew he was going to ask that.’ And he said to Drew, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question but we are going to fight, and we are going to find out what we need to do to fight to make sure you don’t. And we’ll do everything we can to fight with you.’”
Dawn adds, “This Doctor is an amazing man.”
It would be a long, tough inning for Drew, but the ever fierce competitor attacked his brain tumor through 30 treatments of radiation at Duke.
Dawn tearfully says, “At Duke, there is hope, and that’s all we needed. We needed hope.”
Back in 2013, the first pitch is thrown by Kate and caught by Drew.
Drew is healthy, and playing in the very tournament that benefited him last year.
Dawn says, “Now we’re here fighting for Kate, so she threw that pitch out like a champ.”
The Van Dykes, the Mara baseball community and the 23 teams out here today are paying it forward to another family inside the diamond. It is appreciated, and it is heartfelt.
Kate’s mom Cindy says, “Yes, overwhelming, but you do what you have to do. You want them well, you want them alive, so things like this are godsends.”
These were nine innings of life lessons in love, giving and true sportsmanship that these kids will carry with them the rest of their game… of life.
Anyone who wants to donate to “Kate’s Krew,” there is an account in her name at Fifth Third Bank.
The families are very grateful to the 23 baseball teams and athletic programs that competed in the 2013 DVD Invitational. So far, a little more than $8,000 was raised for Kate and cancer charities.
The tournament winners were 7U - Mara, 8u – Mara, 9u – Mint Hill Green Sox, 10u – Porter Ridge, and 12u – South Charlotte. The baseball leagues supporting Kate include Mara, Waxhaw, Union County Outlaws, Mint Hill, Porter Ridge, Indian Trail, South Charlotte, Pineville, Ballantyne, Lake Norman, South Park, Piedmont and Coul Oak.