As the Cardinals play in the post-season, there is a group of children and their parents who are watching as fans– but they also feel like they know some of those on the field.
In July of this year, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt came out to the Rainbows for Kids “All-Star Game” which was played at All-Star Performance in Crestwood to spend some time with a special group of kids. It was not the first time that someone from the Cardinals surprised the kids at their All-Star Game.
The year Matt Carpenter went to the MLB All-Star Game he came out to play with the kids. In fact, he had just found out a few minutes before the Rainbows for Kids game that he was selected and Rob Rains was able to make that announcement with him to the crowd as well as report it on STLSportsPage.com. Carpenter was among a group that pitched to the kids and visited with them and they were all excited to be “All-Stars” and have an “All-Star” with them.
This year when Mike Shildt showed up, the kids did not know he was coming and he was greeted with many cheers and claps.
It was a big treat for the young ballplayers– and their parents. Shildt took the time to have a short conversation with each child on both teams. He introduced himself and asked them their names. He then gave a motivational speech to the parents in the crowd and despite getting to Busch Stadium early in the morning and then managing the Cardinals game that day, he spent time with the kids, and gave everyone at the event the time of their lives.
Donating money is wonderful, but actually taking the time to come out and play with the kids makes everyone involved feel special. You never know if a family has just gotten the devastating news, if they are just recovering, or if this will be a lasting memory to a family who will lose a child. The gift of time is so important to a family with a child going through a life-threatening situation. It’s also great for their siblings to be out there– everybody having fun and feeling like a normal kid.
“It was great to see the Cardinals manager came out to see the kids,” said Angela Scoggins, mother to Ariana who relapsed this year. “I saw him talk to all them.”
Lizzie Kurowski, a Rainbows for Kids board member and a coach for the All-Star Team is a big Cardinals fan so she was glad to see Shildt with the kids.
“It means the world to know that not only is he a phenomenal coach but also a great person,” she said. “Mike Shildt spent time talking to each of the kids and he took it a step further by accepting a special rainbow bracelet made by one of our All-Stars and wearing it the next day in the Cardinals game”
Ashley Garlick, a teen in the group who plays on the baseball team despite losing a leg to cancer, made rainbow bracelets for all of the kids to wear.
Shildt noticed the bracelets and she gave him one. He was so touched he said he would wear it in the game the next day. You better believe the kids watched to see if he had it on and photographer Bill Greenblatt got it on camera that the manager was true to his word. The kids and their parents were so excited when they found out.
The All-Star Baseball Game is an annual event held by Rainbows for Kids where kids sign up and they get uniforms, have three practices and then an All-Star Game with trophies. Some of these kids would never be able to be on a team because they have cancer or are in some sort of medical treatment and may be be weak from their chemotherapy or some are in a wheel chair.
The Rainbows for Kids All-Star Game lets kids of all ages, girls and boys, some in treatment and their brothers and sisters come out and be on a team.
“Being on the team helped Ariana because she was around children that understood how she was feeling, and kids that would not judge her.”
What cancer does to children (or anyone): Ariana was very sick at the time and would go out on the practice field for a few minutes and then get sick in the restroom, and then go back out. The children all bravely show up at practice even when they don’t feel well, but the atmosphere is very loving and supportive with everyone looking out for each other. She’s shown in the photo above at first base.
Fredbird is also a big part of Rainbows for Kids. Kids of all ages love playing around with him and getting their picture with him.
Earlier this year, pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was a special guest at Rob Rains’ STLSportsPage Spring Training Bash in Jupiter, Florida. The event benefits Rainbows for Kids and in the picture, he posed with Tyler Hammond who had been one of the Rainbows for Kids kids when he was younger.
When Tyler was a child, his liver began failing him and he had to have a multiple organ transplant. The only hospital in the country that would do such a big surgery was Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana so the Hammond family took him there.
He wanted to play on the baseball team so bad that they set it up with the hospital to give him a beeper and he came back to St. Louis and was able to play in the All-Star. Shortly after that the beeper went off and his family headed to Indiana, uncertain of what this very major surgery’s outcome would be. But they had made a memory of a lifetime with him playing in the game. That’s how much it means to some of these kids.
“I have been encouraged to keep strong through playing baseball,” said Tyler. “Even when I had to wait for my liver and multi-organ transplant. The baseball team was so special for me knowing that they supported me and all the friends I have met through Rainbows for Kids. I felt the players were cheering us on when they came to play at the All-Star Games with us.”
Kolten Wong welcomed a group of Rainbows for Kids families to the field as a part of his Kolten’s Crew in August of this year. This event was very special because several of the children were very sick and it provided a fun distraction from their treatment. It also provides memories and photographs that will last a lifetime for the families. For one family, it was the last Cardinals game they would all attend together, as their child passed away two months later.
“Kolten Wong is a gem,” Ariana’s mom Angela said. “It was really cool to be on the field and watch them practice.”
Karla Bevel drives her family all the way from Columbia, Missouri so her son Jaden can have treatment in St. Louis. She made the trip so they could go on the field with Wong that day. He is in the middle of treatments and often does not feel well, but for Karla, a single mother of three the baseball game provided some much-needed fun and relaxation in the midst of a difficult time.
“Jayden loves the Cardinals and even on days when he is feeling horrible he still wants to know if they are playing and ‘did Yadi get a home run?'” she said. “He tells everyone who will listen that he got to meet Kolten Wong. We were playing the Pirates that day and one of the players was talking to him and asked him if he wanted to trade hats but Jaden wouldn’t do it– because the Cardinals are the best.”
Former Manager Whitey Herzog has also given his time to Rainbows for Kids on several different occasions, as has Ozzie Smith.
“Whitey Herzog is such an amazing man,” said Michele Carter, board member who was in charge of a gala that Herzog attended. “He is such a supporter of Rainbows for Kids; he’s attended several of our events over the years.”
Herzog participated in a Baseball Roundtable led by Rob Rains with Cardinals broadcaster John Rooney (left) and Cardinals writer Rick Hummel. The photo shows them standing by a cake that was made by Patty Cakes in Highland, Illinois for the event.
Since Rainbows for Kids started the baseball team, Matt Carpenter has come out twice. Other players who volunteered their time at the All-Star Games included David Freeze, Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, Aledmys Diaz, Trevor Rosenthal, Colby Rasmus, and Jason Motte.
Motte took the selfie, shown left, and Trevor Rosenthal is to the right with Matt Carpenter in the back to the left of Fredbird.
In 2011 David Freese was the surprise guest. He is in the photo above, in the back row. The game was on a Sunday night– after a day game so he was able to come. Several months later the kids were all together again at another event when the announcer came on the speaker and told them Freese had just hit a big home run in the NLCS against the Brewers to help get the Cardinals to the World Series. After meeting him at their own game they felt they knew him when he went on to hit the walk-off home run in the World Series that he will always be remembered for.
Tyler Hammond and his parents Debbie and Ross Hammond are volunteers now but they look back and remember when Tyler was sick and the Cardinals involvement in Rainbows for Kids meant a lot to them. In fact Tyler (in front of Freese in the photo) remembered every player he met.
“Adam Wainwright, David Eckstein Matt Carpenter, Daniel Poncedeleon, Mike Matheny, David Freese, Jason Motte, Marc Rzepcynski, Aledmys Diaz, Brad Thompson, Skip Schumaker, Glenn Brummer and Colby Rasmus,” said Tyler. “I feel very luck to have met all those players through my involvement in Rainbows for Kids.”
Players who have donated their time to help Rainbows for Kids with their Spring Training Baseball Bash fundraiser for Rainbows for Kids and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Palm Beach Florida are Wong, Carpenter, Rosenthal, Mitch Harris, Diaz, Carson Kelly (shown right with WPTV news anchor Mike Trim and Rob Rains).
Wong (shown left) especially enjoyed answering the questions that the younger fans asked. Whenever a child or teen would ask him tips or about his youth league experiences he lit up. It was easy to see he has a heart for children.
Tyler Hammond got to go to Spring Training one year and through Rainbows for Kids, the Cardinals arranged for him to throw out the first pitch.
“I was really thrilled to get to throw out the first pitch at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium during Spring Training! I was all smiles that day.”
“The Cardinals support over the years has made Rainbows for Kids a truly unique organization” said Lizzie Kurowski.
For twenty years the Cardinals have been supporting Rainbows for Kids, which is an all-volunteer run organization started by the Rains and Tippett families in St. Louis after a family member was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They put on fun events so the families can take their minds off of their child’s disease, relax, and meet friends– and the highlight of the summer is always the All-Star Game.
“We really can’t thank the Cardinals enough for all they have done for our kids” said Mike Rains, a founding board member.
Rainbows for Kids operates soley on donations or grants they receive and proceeds from their annual Gala. This year’s gala is November 23rd with a Hollywood Theme. For more information about how to support Rainbows for Kids or attend their Gala, click here or go to RainbowsForKids.org.