2004 NEWS

2004 News > 8/26/04


By Kevin Czerwinski, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

NEW YORK -- The tears welled up in Jane Hennessy's eyes as Tom Glavine spoke. Each time the words pediatric cancer were mentioned, she seemed to wince. And with good reason. Hennessy's son Will, a bright-eyed 7-year-old, is recovering from Ewings Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer in children. The youngster is in remission, though, after battling the dreadful disease for months. By his side is Glavine, who has taken much more than a passing interest in helping children like Will Hennessy overcome what far too often is a fatal affliction.

Glavine took time Thursday morning at Shea Stadium to talk about his role in the CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation, an organization dedicated to curing pediatric cancer. CureSearch is a beneficiary of the Commissioner's Initiative for Kids Program, which is a platform for fans to support important youth-related charities while giving as many children as possible the opportunity to attend Major League Baseball games.

Ameriquest Mortgage Company, an official sponsor of Major League Baseball, has made the charitable contribution of $1 million to obtain one million tickets from the Commissioner's Initiative for Kids. All donations will go to the Boys and Girls Club of America as well as CureSearch. For more information on CureSearch and the Children's Oncology Group, visit www.curesearch.org.

While Glavine was typically humble when discussing his role in getting the Commissioner's office involved in CureSearch, the work he has done to promote the organization and help the children it serves has gone far beyond what the general public usually sees from a professional athlete. It was Glavine who presented the idea of joining forces with CureSearch to Major League Baseball and making it part of the Commissioner's Initiative.

"Tom approached us directly to help find a vehicle to fight this disease and promote awareness," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "He's a true humanitarian."

The origins of Glavine's involvement began with the Hennessys. While attending a kindergarten party for his own son, Jonathan, Glavine got to know the Hennessy family and was moved by their dilemma, to a point where he and his wife Christine practically became a part of the Hennessy's every day life.

"That's generally how it happens," Glavine said. "You get introduced to a lot of stuff and you branch out to help other families. And, unfortunately, Will came down with the disease, and you wish it never happened. But once you get involved, you can't help but want to help. You see an opportunity to really make a difference. It was something I felt compelled to do.

"A lot of guys will do only one thing and it's when there are 100 cameras on. My approach has been that that's not the way to do it. If it is, then you're not doing it for the right reasons. I've been more than casually involved with these people. You're thankful for what you have and it serves as a hard reminder that you're lucky."

The Hennessys view themselves as fortunate, not only because their son is on his way to a healthy childhood, but also because Glavine and his family are now part of their family. When Hennessy was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, Glavine and his wife were one of the first families to cook a meal and bring it to their home.

When Hennessy underwent surgery last summer, it was Glavine who had each of his teammates sign a jersey and baseballs so the boy would have something to look at and hold when he came out from under the anesthetic. And last summer, when Glavine had a party at his home in Atlanta to celebrate his 250th career victory, he invited the Hennessy's to take part in his special day.

"We had meals for 10 months," said Jane Hennessy, once again fighting back tears. "His whole family came over. And he invited us to that party last summer and we were hanging out with all the Mets, playing checkers with Ty Wigginton and talking with Al Leiter. It was special.

"And Tom's wife took care of so much. When we had to go to Houston to have surgery or fly anywhere, she would make all the plans through her connections and we'd have free first-class flights. She even spends time doing research for new cancer treatment."

It was through the Hennessys that the Glavines came to know another family, Kristin and Mike Connor and their three-year-old son, Brandon. The youngster, who was born with a tumor near his spine, was preparing to have surgery last November when a last-minute MRI exam revealed the tumor had completely disappeared.

The boy's miraculous recovery received national media attention but the Connors were a part of Glavine's life long before the country ever heard of them. And it was primarily because of Kristin Connor that Glavine went to the Commissioner's office looking for help.

"I had enlisted Tom's help before I had really decided which organization would be able to offer what," Connor said. "I went with a gentleman from CureSearch to talk with Tom last month in Milwaukee and we sat in the hotel restaurant, had coffee and talked about CureSearch and how we could cure pediatric cancer.

"When we initially broached the subject of helping with the Glavines, it never occurred to me to ask Major League Baseball to get involved. That was Tom's idea to go to the league. I was amazed that he was willing to do that and at the way he has poured himself into this. He has spent so much time with us. How many professional athletes would be willing to put in that kind of time. I am so humbled by what Major League Baseball and Tom have done and continue to do for us."

Not every child is as fortunate as Will Hennessy or Brandon Connor. Glavine is also close with another youngster in Atlanta who just had to be moved to a hospice on Wednesday and may not live more than another week or so. Glavine lowers his eyes and his voice becomes muted when he talks about the boy who will be another victim before too long.

"You can't help but get caught up in the struggle and the passion and the fight every day," Glavine said. "To be a player and be able to bridge a gap with Major League Baseball and try to help out is important. It's been an eye-opening experience. Children's cancer is a devastating thing.

"Great strides are being made to find a cure. Hopefully, in my lifetime, they will find a rate of 100 percent and hopefully that will start today."