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Softball Strikeout Cancer Weekend

Apr 17, 2013, 11:42 AM EDT

Wind, hail and temperatures hovering around freezing were not enough to keep fans out of the stands at the Melissa Cook Softball Stadium this past Saturday. These conditions may have deterred some fans on any other weekend, but not this time. No, this weekend the Irish Softball team celebrated their 3rd annual Strikeout Cancer Weekend, and that is a big deal to the Fighting Irish softball community.

This tradition began here at the University of Notre Dame in 2011, after head coach Deanna Gumpf’s four-year-old daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease, the most common cancer diagnosis among children, is a life-threatening one. Had it gone untreated or not been spotted in time, Tatum may have lost her life, and the Notre Dame Softball team would have lost a member of their family. Thankfully, after a few rounds of chemotherapy, Tatum is now in remission and in no immediate danger from the cancer.

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Four children affected by cancer threw out first pitches in this weekend’s Strikeout Cancer game.

This past Saturday, Tatum was out on the field during warm-ups, helping her mom throw ground balls to the team and get them ready for their afternoon game. In the midst of hail and rain, that scene alone was more heartwarming than any jacket or blanket could be. Tatum, along with three other children afflicted by cancer, threw out the opening pitches for Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Any hint of despair or depression caused by the weather was quickly washed away by the cheers of parents and fans as these courageous youngsters took to the mound. Fittingly, once the pitches were thrown and pictures were being taken, the sun broke through the clouds and made smiles grow larger than they already were.

The Notre Dame Softball team did more than just sweep Rutgers in their weekend series; they also helped raise over $15,000 for pediatric oncology research. It was not just a one sided effort though; the Rutgers Softball team went out of their way to raise $1,300 for Saturday’s ceremony and presented it to the Notre Dame Softball team before the opening pitches were thrown—a noble showing of sportsmanship which transcends more than just the softball diamond.

It’s a funny thing, cancer. It has the ability to strike down the toughest of us and break apart families and friendships; but it wasn’t so this weekend. This weekend, in a joint effort against cancer, families, friends, and strangers from different backgrounds were all brought together. They remembered those lost and those currently fighting, and they expressed their confidence and hope for the future.

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