Despite striking out in their hopes of a Little League World Series title on Sunday, the Red Land Little League Team spent the tournament hitting home runs in the name of pediatric cancer.
The Pennsylvania-based Little League team has spent the duration of the Little League World Series, which concluded over the weekend, partnered with the Vs. Cancer Foundation to raise money for childhood cancer. Half of the money raised will go to the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital through the Four Diamonds fund, Kristen Duncan, social media and marketing specialist for the Four Diamonds, said.
The team raised $14,923 over five games, from Aug. 21 to the championship game on Aug. 30. People were able to donate per run the Red Lands scored throughout the tournament. In the final, $326.47 was donated for each of the 11 runs the team scored.
The team partnered with the Vs. Cancer Foundation after Scott Shirley, a former Penn State football player and executive director of Uplifting Athletes reached out. Chase Jones, a friend of Red Land Assistant Coach Bret Wagner and CEO of the Vs. Cancer Foundation, set up the program so that money would be raised based on how many runs the team scored in the Little League World Series.
“We kind of wanted to take advantage of our 15 minutes of fame, and not everyone has an opportunity to raise money and raise awareness to such a great cause,” Wagner said. “It was the perfect opportunity to do something meaningful.”
Jones is a survivor of childhood cancer and said he understands all the good that this program is doing.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of these funds,” Jones said. “It’s amazing that these kids totally embraced this effort and made the whole community into a fundraising group that will change people’s lives.”
One specific thing that the money will help fund is a music therapy program, which has an instructor go around and play music for children at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, Jones said. The funds will help pay for more instruments and extending the staff’s hours.
“We found out that when the kids’ stress is lower, tumors shrink, so there’s a bit of science behind this,” Jones said. “If they can jam out and feel less stressed about the treatment, they truly have a better chance of beating the cancer. We’re funding things to help kids feel like kids.”
The money was raised using a “performing-based fundraising platform” called Pledge It, which allows a team to raise money based on in-game or in-season performances, John Paul Bennett, the director of marketing with Pledge It, said.
“This is unique because usually a high school team want to raise money for themselves, but at the Red Land Little League team, there were players who wanted to use their once-in-a-life time opportunity to raise money for battling cancer.”
“It’s kids giving back to other kids,” Bennett said.
Pledge It has worked with collegiate teams and professional athletes before, including the Penn State football team and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, Bennett said.
“When you’re dealing with 12-year-olds, sometimes they live in their own little bubble and they lose sight of the fact that not everyone is healthy and have the gifts that they have,” Wagner said. “Being able to do this while they were on this awesome run was an eye opener for them.”