The First Assembly Church scored more runs than the Bartow High School teachers in Wednesday’s softball fundraising softball game but as announcer Tripp Wallace said following the seven-inning affair, they weren’t the only winners.
“We have three winners tonight,” he said through the loud speaker. “Bartow First Assembly, the Fight for Casey and Denise Smith.”
The annual game, played for the fourth time, raises money for Denise Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund. This year organizers decided to split the proceeds 50-50 in what has become known as the Fight for Casey. Casey Prescott, 25, was diagnosed with breast cancer and her friends started T-shirt sales to help the family of three raise money for medical treatments and family expenses. A member of the First Assembly Church, has also gotten behind the cause as has the community.
A friend of Casey’s and her husband, Nate, saw someone on a softball game a few weeks ago wearing a Fight for Casey T-shirt. Their friend asked how she knew Casey.
“She said she saw the T-shirt at Christie’s (Christie’s Styling Salon in Mulberry where it’s for sale) and she thought it looked nice and she said she wanted to help (Casey),” Nate said.
Casey was equally surprised when she found out how people went out of their way to help. She kept her cancer diagnosis a secret for a long time. But once it came out her friends, Whitney Lawson and Meghan Harrison made up the T-shirts and have them for sale in various places in the area.
The fight for Casey was evident on the field Wednesday. The game started a little late as the crowd and players waited for the Prescotts to show up where Casey threw out the first pitch. Perhaps she was a little late because Wednesday she went for her fourth chemotherapy treatment that day.
“I know she’ll be healed and you can stand by that,” Eric Harrison said after he hit a three-run home run for First Assembly. He said he and Nate have been friends their all their lives.
Another Fight for Casey team member Yolanda Delacerda, said, “It’s just really inspiring and it makes me think that the things that go wrong in my life seem small. It’s just great how a church and a community can come together (for someone).”
Of course with Casey at the game and with her being a new recipient in this fund-raising tournament, that doesn’t mean the memory of Denise Smith was forgotten. The game’s umpire, Mike Brennan, said Smith was perhaps the best business teacher he’s ever known. She started the Education Academy at Bartow High School and when Brennan left the business industry and started teaching she was never hesitant to help him learn his new ropes.
“She was a true Christian … she really helped me a lot,” he said. “If something has her name attached I just have to say yes (to being a part of it).”
He keeps in his classroom a pin with her picture on it, mentioning he is not the only teacher in the school with this pin.
“She was probably the best business teacher we’ve ever had,” he said, adding she was top of the line in everything, even when she was fighting breast cancer that spread and eventually took her life.
Being on top is something that can be noticed with Casey, too. Despite being shocked with her diagnosis of cancer as she has no family history of cancer, she said, her teardrops of late have been more for joy, she said.
“I think I’ve cried so much more from happiness than from being sad,” she said, thinking she is in this situation for reason. She said she doesn’t know what that is yet, but she feels it will be revealed to her.
“I want to help others who are going through this. I just don’t know how to help people yet.”
But in the meantime, her top goals is make it through this so she can stay with her husband and son, Benjamin, who is 22 months old.
Concerned about being questioned by her son and whether or not he will be scared or reject her because of her going bald through the chemotherapy, she said he has shown strength she didn’t expect.
“I was afraid he was going to reject me, but he’s been really good. He rubs my (bald) head,” she said with a laugh.
That strength may have come from her. After finding out the cancer covered 50 percent of her breast the doctor recommended a lumpectomy and radiation. A few weeks following that he recommended a double mastectomy to which she consented.
“I had that conversation on my couch in my living room,” she said. “I was on my cell phone on the couch. I just have to be here for my family.”
With this diagnosis, Casey thinks a lot of what this can mean for her family’s future. Is there a risk of her son getting cancer. Should she think of having more children and open them to that risk. Last week she took a BRAC1 and BRAC2 genetic tests that would show whether or not she has a cancer gene. This would better determine what risk she may be exposing future offspring to.
While she said her chemotherapy treatments make her very sick for up to a week at time it was not evident after her fourth treatment Wednesday at the softball game.
“I’m doing very well,” she said after throwing out the first pitch. She said she starts to feel the effects of the chemotherapy about the day after she gets it and she said it lasts about two days or maybe up to a week.
“It feels kind of like getting the flu,” she said.
She has a work at home job with Capital One bank and they have allowed her what she needs to deal with the illness.
“They let me take off as much time as I need,” she said adding they’ve been helpful.
With friends, the church and community helping, Casey said her family, all who live close, have been helpful too. They watch Benjamin when she has to go Moffit for treatment. She doesn’t take any of it for granted either when it comes from those she knows to those she doesn’t know.
“I randomly see people with a T-shirt and I don’t know who they are,” she said. “I have to go to them and say thank you.”
By the way — and though it probably doesn’t matter — the final score was 11-5.