|“StrikeOut Cancer Night” Events|
• Free Fan Giveaway of WCWS pink visor (while supplies last).
• The ceremonial first pitch for Game 1 of the championship series will be thrown by Abby Burns, an NCAA softball student-athlete at Texas Woman’s University who is battling leukemia. Laura Berg, a Los Angeles police officer and softball’s only four-time Olympian, will catch the pitch. Berg was a member of the 1998 national championship team at Fresno State and a four-time All-American.
• The bottom of the third inning will feature a Cancer Survivors’ Celebration Walk in the outfield, led by softball Olympians and Divisions I, II and III NFCA Hall of Fame coaches.
• The bottom of the fourth inning will feature an on-field presentation by the NCAA and Dot Richardson to the Oklahoma Region of the American Cancer Society.
• The bottom of the fifth inning will feature Howie Jackson, cancer survivor and local Hero of Hope for Western Oklahoma, leading the crowd in singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
• A postgame autograph session with the two finalists will also be held.
The NCAA is collaborating Monday night with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for “StrikeOut Cancer Night,” which will be held in conjunction with Game 1 of the championship series of the 2011 NCAA Women’s College World Series (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
The NCAA will donate $1 for every ticket sold Monday, with the proceeds directed to the Oklahoma region of the American Cancer Society. This is the third year the NCAA has sponsored this event, but it is the first time it has worked with the NFCA at the Women’s College World Series.
“We thought about how we could work together and make this stand out as something special,” NFCA assistant executive director Jen Goodwin said. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the NCAA along with the American Cancer Society.”
During the regular season, the NFCA gave teams throughout the country a chance to designate games to support this initiative. So far, 175 schools have reported back to the NFCA and more than $112,000 has been raised.
An especially personal “StrikeOut Cancer,” event took place April 17 when Notre Dame played host to Louisville. Fighting Irish coach Deanna Gumpf was able to watch her 5-year-old daughter Tatum, who was diagnosed with leukemia last July, throw out the first pitch and circle the bases.
“It was very emotional for all of us, because that was the first game she was able to attend since she was diagnosed,” said Gumpf, whose team advanced to the regional round of the Division I Women’s Softball Championship. “It was very cool, and Tatum loved every minute of it.”
The game raised about $12,000 to fight the deadly disease. The money from Notre Dame’s game went to the Memorial Hematology, Oncology, and Pediatric Clinic in South Bend, Ind., where Tatum received much of her treatment.
“We have a program called, ‘Fighting Irish Fight for Life,’ ” Gumpf said. “You adopt one of the kids at the clinic. I didn’t want Tatum to be our team’s kid from the clinic. I just thought it would be overwhelming. So, we got little boy named Sam.”
Tatum, who is in maintenance for her condition, and Sam were joined by other children patients for the Notre Dame event.
“We gated off an area for the nurses, doctors and kids from the clinic,” Gumpf said. “They walked the bases and got a bunch of prizes After Tatum threw out the first pitch, Sam was on the loud speaker saying ‘Here come the Irish,’ as our team ran out to their positions.”
Gumpf said her daughter loves softball and is continuing her fight back to health.
“Her counts stay low because of the chemotherapy drugs, so she hasn’t had a normal life lately,” Gumpf said. “We’re keeping her in a bubble here, but in the big picture she’s doing unbelievably well.”