It's not every day you get to hang out with a Major League pitcher. But, aspiring athletes can do just that on January 25th.
It's a bit of a dream for 10 year-old Carson Cooper to play baseball with a professional player. He says, "It's sort of cool to play with a Major League player. Well, it's really cool actually."
This isn't the first time the 5th Grader played catch with Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson tells the young player, "We'll work on what I was telling you last time."
Cooper says, "I just like playing with Jeremy. He's basically family." Carson's family is friends with the Hoover High alum. A private lesson with the standout star is just a perk. Hellickson asks a smiling Carson, "Can you throw a strike with the camera on you?”
But the pressure of throwing a perfect pitch to a gold glove winner is nothing for the fifth grader. Carson says, "I had to take shots in my leg twice a day for about six months, and so there's lots of pokes and you can't go to school sometimes."
Carson was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2011. He still has about eight months of treatment. Mom Pam Cooper says, "We actually had a rough patch this summer. They thought he had relapsed.” She goes on to say, “But, it ended up the chemo he was taking just became really toxic in his system."
Carson is back in school now, feeling fine, and helping with an organization his family started more than a year ago. His mom says, "Carson came up with the name, Kids Living Brave, obviously because kids fighting cancer are pretty brave."
The organization delivers "Brave Baskets" to kids battling cancer. The baskets include medical necessities, fun toys and comfort to families going through a difficult diagnosis. Mrs. Cooper says, "We saw some needs and some holes within the support system for families in the community. For us, we didn't really meet anyone until we were about six months in."
The brave baskets cost about $200 each. The group raised more than $6,000 to help cover costs at an event with Hellickson last year. He says, "The Coopers do a lot, you know, for other people, and when they asked me to do this, it was a no brainer for me to come out and help, and you know, work with the kids.”
Every kid has a chance to learn something from the Major League pitcher. Kids Living Brave is hosting a Pitcher Perfect clinic at Grand Slam USA in Urbandale later this month. Grand Slam USA Coach Garrett Hawkins says, "They're going to be busy. I mean, they're coming to see Jeremy obviously, but we'll have them in small groups getting a lot of pitching work in."
The clinic is for anyone 8 to 18. It costs $75 to sign up. All the money raised will help make more “Brave Baskets” for kids like Carson. And you never know what you might learn. Carson says, "I learned not to stick my foot out and to step right toward the catcher.”
Hellickson says he also learns from Carson. He says, "They go through a lot, you know, behind the scenes, and then you see them out and they're nothing but smiles."
The Pitcher Perfect Clinic is January 25th from 9 to 3. This year, you can also donate blood at the event. LifeServe will have its mobile clinic outside Grand Slam USA so people can donate, since cancer patients require many blood transfusions. People will also be able to sign up for the bone marrow registry while there. You can find more information and sign up at kidslivingbrave.org.