On MLB Opening Day, Seattle Mariner Kyle Seager starts a special season in which he joins legions of athletes – from Little Leaguers to pros, coaches and fans – in a fight against childhood cancer. Every hit the third baseman records during the season will raise awareness and funds for the Vs. Cancer Foundation started by brain cancer survivor and Seager’s college teammate, Chase Jones.
Chase remains cancer-free eight years after The University of Texas MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in Houston helped him beat a veritable death sentence. He has dedicated his life to helping young patients and, ultimately, ending childhood cancer.
In 2006, Chase was a freshman catcher at the University of North Carolina when he was diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer. Proton therapy saved his life, allowing the then-18-year-old to defy the odds.
The experience gave Chase a new dream. In 2013 he founded Vs. Cancer to raise money and awareness for children’s cancer. That awareness often begins with sports teams shaving their heads.
“When I came back home, my Tar Heels teammates welcomed me with shaved heads to show solidarity with my experience and to raise money for a local cancer hospital,” says Chase. “Their gesture gave me an idea – athletes have a unique ability to help change outcomes for kids with cancer, and they can be a voice for young patients.”
Today, Vs. Cancer’s 50/50 model allocates 50% of funds to local pediatric oncology programs through the teams/individuals supporting Vs. Cancer and the other 50% to national cancer research efforts.
Vs. Cancer has partnered with numerous schools/teams, including Duke, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Brown, Harvard, Fordham, Yale, Texas A&M and UMass, among others. On the pro/semi-pro side, a few examples include the Mets’ Matt Harvey, a former roommate of Chase’s and one of the first to shave his head for cancer, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (a New York Yankees AAA team). It also partners with likeminded nonprofits, such as the Jimmy V. Foundation. To date, Vs. Cancer has raised over $1.5 million; it helped 40,617 children in 2014 alone.
One of the biggest fundraisers involved a youth league of 6 to twelve-year-olds from Raleigh who raised $60,000. “Vs. Cancer gives people at every age and in every sport– college, high school, youth; baseball, lacrosse, football – a platform to make a difference,” Chase says.
Kyle Seager hopes to give Vs. Cancer a big boost. Every time Seattle’s third baseman steps up to the plate is an opportunity to help pediatric cancer patients. Through the Seager Vs. Cancer effort, fans can pledge a donation toward every hit he has during the 2015 season, and he’s matching the first 100 people to pledge, doubling the effort to help kids beat cancer in Seattle and across the country.
“Cancer is personal for me. Having battled this disease I have seen first-hand the impact it can have on families, especially children,” says Chase. “By funding research and supporting local children’s hospitals, we can make a difference that can increase survival rates and save kids’ lives.”