This Little Light

The AT&T National Sportsmanship Awards will be held Saturday, November 21st at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis. In the days leading up to the event that “celebrates all that’s right in sports,” we will present the stories of several 2009 honorees. For tickets and more information, please call (314) 345-5122 or visit www.nationalsportsmanshipawards.com.

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Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works. This statement applies to the New York Yankees. The players who have worn the uniform are nothing short of legendary. Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Berra, and Jackson only start the list. Players like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez are trying even now to etch their names into Yankee lore. It was night in July, however, that made the current group of Yankees a team for the ages.

Caren and Dan Mahar founded Camp Sundown for kids with the rare disease known as XP –xeroderma pigmentosum. XP causes sunlight to be extremely harmful. Kids with XP have a 2,000-fold increased risk of skin cancer, precancerous tumors, eye and mouth tumors. Most won’t live to be 20. Yankees media-relations director Jason Zillo invited the kids from Camp Sundown to watch New York take on the Oakland A’s at Yankee Stadium. Fluorescent lighting is also dangerous for the kids, so even attending a night game was a little tricky. Zillo guided his young guests into their VIP suite to watch the game. After watching a Yankees 6-3 victory, it was on to the real fun.

The lights were dimmed to 30 percent and Yankee Stadium was then transformed into a carnival of wiffle ball games, frisbees, clowns, magicians; all for the kids from Camp Sundown. The kids took batting practice with A.J. Burnett, played games with Jeter, and were even serenaded by Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada spoke about the importance of being involved with Camp Sundown. “We’re baseball players; that’s all we do for our lives. I couldn’t imagine not being able to do that. What we’re doing here, even at 2 o’clock in the morning, the kids are smiling and having fun at Yankee Stadium –it’s great to see.” The carnival went on until just before 4 a. m., when the kids had to reboard their buses to make it back to camp before daybreak. Dan Mahar wants this experience at Yankee Stadium to be one his kids can look back upon when they need it most. “What these children take with them will probably come out years from now, hopefully. They’ll look back and remember what it felt like–at least for one night–to be loved and accepted by the whole world.” Until next time…

Be a Good Sport!

-Sol

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