The Virginia Wesleyan University softball team held their annual Strikeout Cancer Day during a double header against Emory and Henry College on April 22. All proceeds from the games, which were originally scheduled for April 7 but were rescheduled due to rain, were donated to the American Cancer Society to fund research to end cancer.
Coach Brandon Elliot adopted the game, which was created by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, in 2009 after his mother passed away in 2008 from cancer. He saw the event as a way to honor his mother’s fighting spirit and her desire to help others in any way possible, as well as offer support to those affected by the disease.
“Cancer may have taken her life, but I wasn’t going to let it take her fight,” Elliot said.
The team sought to raise $3,000 the first year that the event was put on at VWU and since then has raised over $100,000 for the cause. Each year that the event has been held, the Marlins have increased their goal by almost $5,000.
After securing their goal of $20,000 last year, the Marlins’ goal for the 2018 Strikeout Cancer Game was raised to $25,000.
Because of the rescheduling, Coach Elliot feared that the cooler weather and new date might affect the amount of donations the team collected. But before the games even took place, the Marlins had received about $5000 in donations.
To meet their goal, the Marlins raised money through accepting donations, selling t-shirts and tickets to the game, and putting on a silent auction.
Before game day, the Marlins softball team put in their fair share of fundraising work by manning a table in the Marlin Grille where they sold shirts for $15 and $20 as well as tickets for $5 that permitted entry into both games on Sunday.
The silent auction was held Sunday and included over 70 diverse items. Many of the items available were donated by members of the community, businesses, and even those who had never been involved in the event before.
Items that were auctioned off included Norfolk Tides tickets, Spirit of Norfolk Cruise Passes, golf outings, Ocean Breeze Water Park season passes, a Yeti Cooler basket, a mini football helmet signed by Eli Manning, and camps held by VWU sports teams.
Genesis Church, CiCi’s Pizza, and others from the community also donated food to keep the crowds at the games happy. Customers did not have to pay for the food, instead it was asked that they donate what they could to the cause in place of strict menu prices.
To show support for those affected by cancer, the team also sported yellow shirts in place of their usual jerseys.
Last year the shirts read “Play Hard, Glaubke Strong” in honor of Marlins softball player Madison Glaubke’s mother who passed away from the disease in 2017.
This year, Coach Elliot and the Marlins chose to honor head coach Bari Mance of St. John Fisher College, the team the Marlins defeated in the national championship last year, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. The 2018 shirts read “Play Hard, Bari Strong”.
The Marlins had a successful day of softball, defeating Emory and Henry in both games. Game one was a close call, with the Marlins only leading the Wasps by two runs and winning the game 3-1 in front of a crowd of over 300 fans.
Channeling the energy of the large crowd, the Marlins then swept past Emory and Henry 6-1 in the second match up of the day. The win was a truly a team effort and was the last win for the Marlins during the regular season.
However, the wins were not the sweetest victory of the day for the team. “My favorite part of the day was the pinning ceremony where we got to go into the stands and pass out caregiver/survivor pins to the people affected by the disease,” senior Cassetty Howerin said.
What started as a Virginia Wesleyan softball event to raise money to fight the disease and its effects, has become a community wide effort to raise money to support research that will defeat cancer once and for all. As of now the total is roughly 18,000 dollars. Offical announcement will are expected soon.