Penn Baseball Catcher Reflects on His Team’s Vs. Cancer Experience

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Matt O’Neill just completed his junior year at the University of Pennsylvania and serves as the starting catcher for the Penn Baseball team. Matt started 41 of 42 games under head coach John Yukow in 2018, completed a demanding academic curriculum at Penn’s Wharton School of Business and headed up the team’s annual Vs. Cancer fundraiser – raising more than $6,500 for pediatric cancer research and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

“Any collegiate student-athlete has such a rare opportunity, not only to compete in their respective sport, but to be in a position to have great influence upon others. Given this unique platform, I think it’s incredibly important for us to help others and give back to our communities,” says Matt. Vs. Cancer offers student-athletes the ability to help kids with cancer and give back to the children’s hospital in their community.

“We understand that these coaches and athletes have a demanding schedule already, and adding in community service can seem overwhelming,” says Rachel Mark, national campaign director for Vs. Cancer. “That’s why Vs. Cancer is designed to help athletes make a big impact, while being simple to execute. Plus, our Vs. Cancer team is with our fundraisers every step of the way.”

The Penn Baseball team took their outreach to the next level by shaving their heads and connecting with a child from CHOP, Fernando, who is battling cancer.

“Hosting a Vs. Cancer game was one of the most rewarding aspects of the fundraiser,” says Matt. “It was cool for us to acknowledge our fundraising efforts, but also to have Fernando come to the field and throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

Vs. Cancer understands the importance of connecting their teams to the hospitals they are fundraising for, and if a team is interested in visiting the hospital, the foundation does everything they can to make it happen.

Matt saw the positive effect fundraising for Vs. Cancer had on his team. “I think it brings a team closer, especially when we are working together to help raise money for such a great cause. Once all of our team members learned about the organization, they were all touched and motivated to help raise money and awareness.”

Matt says he would recommend Vs. Cancer to other teams without hesitation. “It is such a rare opportunity to be able to use our standing as student-athletes to raise money and awareness. Not only will it help those who have not been as fortunate as we are, but I firmly believe it can help a team gain greater perspective and create a stronger bond within an athletic program.”

Vs. Cancer would like to thank the entire Penn Baseball program for their continued support of Vs. Cancer. The program has raised over $35,000 for research and CHOP since the 2014 baseball season.

To get your team involved with Vs. Cancer and raise funds to support your local children’s hospital, contact us at info@vs-cancer.org or 980-925-7557.