Huskies with Heart

Huskies with Heart

By Dan Swann

By September of this year, a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester, had been having the kind of summer 22-year-old men only dream about. Wearing the number 62, he had 15 starts for the Boston Red Sox and a record of 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA.

But, on Sept. 1 this dream story faced a setback: Lester was diagnosed with a treatable form of anaplastic large-cell lymphoma following a car accident.

The Red Sox nation responded immediately.

Four diehard fans who met on the Internet combined their creativity with their passion for the Red Sox to raise money for cancer research in light of Lester’s diagnosis.

Amanda Davis of Northeastern, Kayte Eddy of Fisher College, Courtney Smith of Thomasson College and Christine Yandow of Emmanuel College met in August after communicating on a Red Sox fan message board in early 2006. On Labor Day they decided to start a fund-raiser for Lester and donate to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in his name.

“We were all just talking online, and we were really upset about it,” said Yandow, a sophomore education major. “I think it really affected us too because we’re all 19 and he’s 22, and he has such a bright future.”

The girls decided to sell silicone wristbands for $6 each. They ordered 20 red bracelets each from Customsiliconebracelets.com that said “#62 striking out cancer,” said Davis, a sophomore communications major. Each pack of 20 bracelets cost them $40.

The first order of wristbands sold quickly when the girls set up a website, Jonlesterproject.com, and posted a page on MySpace, Yandow said. Yandow bought the website domain and received free platinum hosting for a year. All the girls said they initially expected to hear only from college students, but ended up hearing from a variety of fans.

“I think a lot of Red Sox fans wanted to do something but didn’t know what or where,” Davis said. “But this project allowed fans to finally get involved and do something.”

Lester’s family and friends ordered most of their supply, Davis and Yandow said.

In addition, nearly 900 people responded to the MySpace site, sending e-mails sharing their experiences with cancer. They’ve received e-mails from Ireland, Canada and Guam, Yandow said.

Soon the demand exceeded the supply. The girls said a local vendor for Red Bull, which sponsors Lester, contacted the group and sponsored the project, putting an additional 5,000 bracelets on reserve.

When Yandow started promoting the project to local media, The Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrigan gave her the contact information for the Jimmy Fund, she said.

The Jimmy Fund has been raising money for cancer since 1948 and has been the official charity for the Red Sox since 1953.

Sarah Neukom, a development officer for Jimmy Fund special events, helped the Lester Project become an officially-endorsed Jimmy Fund event last week. The Jimmy Fund will also assist the girls with fund-raising and processing their donations through a bank account.

“I’m so impressed with what they’ve done so far,” Neukom said. “Now we’re officially able to say ‘All right, good job. Go make some money.’ As much exposure as these girls get, more power to them.”

The Lester Project has not only been well-received by the Jimmy Fund but by local sports media as well. Gordon Edes from The Boston Globe Red Sox Notebook mentioned it on Sept. 9, and NESN’s Tom Caron mentioned it in his mailbag on Oct. 5.

The girls remembered two special moments for the project that occurred at Red Sox games in September.

Ten minutes before going on the air, NESN reporter Tina Cervasio spoke to the girls and gave them her cell phone number.

“She was so excited to get to talk to us,” Yandow said. “One of her best friends’ mother died of lymphoma so she took this as a personal cause.”

Cervasio put the bracelet on her hand and held the microphone, making the bracelet visible throughout her broadcast, Yandow said.

The girls also got to meet a rookie baseball phenomenon, said Smith, who is currently taking a year off school.

“We just met Jonathan Papelbon at the Mobil station,” she said. “It was rookie hazing night, and he was all dressed up in drag. We told him about the Lester project, gave him one of our bracelets and he took a picture with us.”

The girls have even received acknowledgment from Yankees fans.

“We’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from Yankees fans saying this is so much more than baseball,” Yandow said. “It’s so much more than about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. It’s about lives.”

The girls hope to attract even more attention. Yandow said they hope to see a story in the Red Sox Notebook about their project.

However, the girls are shocked they have achieved the success that they have, said Eddy, a fashion merchandising major.

“We had no idea it was going to be this big,” she said

What’s next for the fund-raiser once the 5,000 bracelets come in?

“Hopefully enough people, 35,000 people, will have them so that everyone at a Red Sox game will be wearing one [for next season],” Smith said.

Leave a Reply