My favorite part of last week's American Baseball Coaches Association convention was talking with former North Carolina bullpen catcher Chase Jones about his ongoing work to raise money for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
Jones' story really begins in 2006. One day after baseball practice, he started getting terrible headaches. UNC's student health services initially thought he was suffering migraines, but it turned out he had a brain tumor. He had surgery on Oct. 5, 2006, then underwent five rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
"I was fortunate being 18 and being healthy and physically fit, so physically it wasn't as taxing on me," Jones said. "Mentally, it was the hardest thing I've ever done, as far as going to a treatment that makes you feel worse, and you don't know what the end result is going to be. Going to something that makes you feel like crap, and then you've got to go do it the next day and the next day—that was really shocking. But it was so inspiring to see kids next to me doing it the same thing, at such a young age, taking on the same things I did. That just changed my whole perspective."
In 2010, Jones organized BaseBald for the Cure at UNC. Before a game, players and coaches shaved their heads to raise awareness and money for cancer research and treatment. For every $100 donated to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, one Tar Heel baseball player shaved his head. That first drive raised $6,400. They did it again the next year and raised $15,000 more.
"I loved the initial reaction of the guys after we got done," Jones said. "It was not only are our heads shaved but it was like, 'Wow. We just raised a predominant amount of money by shaving our heads, and it was the easiest thing in the world to do.' The children's hospital in Chapel Hill was so thankful for what we provided them. We as a baseball team did so much more on that day than win a baseball game. We actually changed lives."
When Jones graduated last year, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do for a career, but he knew he did not want to see the BaseBald program come to an end. So he approached the St. Baldrick's Foundation—which organizes head-shaving drives around the nation—and landed a full-time job with the organization in September. His job is to reach out to baseball programs nationwide—from Little League to pro ball—to recruit more participants for the BaseBald program. So far, 10 schools are officially on board for 2012: North Carolina, Tulane, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, UNC Wilmington, Brevard (N.C.), Wright State, Illinois State, Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Two other teams—Virginia Tech and Bryant—participated in St. Baldrick's events in the fall.
Jones, the nephew of Tulane coach Rick Jones, has been thrilled with the response he's gotten so far. He said N.C. State coach Elliott Avent is very excited to participate.
"He's actually shaving his head at home plate before they play Wake Forest, when they exchange lineup cards," Jones said. "Being a Carolina guy, it just kind of transcended college lines and everything. I almost got emotional, I'm just so excited about it."
This past October marked five years of being cancer-free for Jones, an important milestone.
"St. Baldrick's provided me with a doctor," he said. "In the simplest of ways, I'm here because of them."
To get involved, visit StBaldricks.org/Events/BaseBald, or contact Jones at (336) 209-2187, or by e-mail at chase@StBaldricks.org.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog