Baseball vs. Cancer
Bluffton University baseball surpasses $50,000 raised for cancer research
Over the last seven years, the Bluffton University baseball team has raised more than $50,000 for pediatric cancer research and patient care through the non-profit Vs. Cancer. The team has also raised awareness in a very public way—by shaving their heads in front of their fellow classmates in Marbeck Center. The event, which took place Feb. 27, is always scheduled just days before the team heads to Florida for spring training.
“It started seven years ago, but it’s something the guys have come to appreciate as one of our community service initiatives,” said James Grandey, head baseball coach. “When we get to Florida, it’s pretty neat to wear the Vs. Cancer t-shirts because they do strike up conversations, and awareness is what is needed when we’re talking about childhood cancer research since it is one of the smallest funded areas of research as far as cancer goes.”
This was the fourth year senior history major and outfielder Brayden Rutter has taken part. For the last three, he has grown his hair out for the entire year before getting it cut by stylists from the Curling Iron who donate their time and expertise for the event.
“My family pokes fun at my long hair, but it doesn’t matter to me because I’m doing it for a good cause,” said Rutter. “This event is a big deal for me personally. Two of my friends back home were affected by pediatric cancer, and a lot of my family has been affected by cancer, so if I can help people or bring awareness to pediatric cancer, I’ll do it.”
Math and physics double major Jeff Arnett agreed. The junior outfielder from Tecumseh, Mich., explained that the event brings the team together just as the pressure of spring training hits.
“We always take pictures with each other, and we get a lot of fun jokes out of it,” explained Arnett. “But at the same time, doing this gives me peace of mind that I am doing something to help out people who are really going through a lot. Last year we had a basketball player on campus who had cancer so it really hit home to a lot of us athletes.”
Faculty and staff often support the players by donating to the cause, and donations were accepted during the lunch event. However, some also participate in the event. For four years Dr. Darryl Nester, professor of mathematics, raised money before getting his head shaved at the event. This year, though, he decided the novelty had worn off, and he raised funds in a unique way.
“On a whim or in a moment of weakness, I said I would dye my hair purple,” said Nester. “That was a Friday afternoon and by Monday or Tuesday I reached my $150 goal, which was set far too low.”
Nester has a personal connection to the event. His father passed away from cancer and his brother and niece are both cancer survivors.
“I’m the faculty athletics representative so I support all of the athletic teams in various ways, but when the baseball team choose this as a cause to support a number of years ago, I thought it was a very worthy cause. Everyone has been touched by cancer,” said Nester.