The average day of an athlete can be rather stressful and exhausting, making it hard to slow down and appreciate the joy of being a collegiate athlete.
However, junior pitcher Ronnie Glenn and the rest of Penn baseball make it a point to realize just how lucky they are.
In past years, the baseball team has played in the Miracle League, a baseball organization for handicapped and special needs children. While a rewarding process, Glenn and new head coach John Yurkow wanted to give a little more this year.
“Coach Yurkow approached me and asked me to contact this foundation and the guy involved there played baseball at [University of North Carolina] … and was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer,” Glenn said. “Now he has 36 college baseball teams … raising money for child cancer research.”
Glenn organized a new type of event to fundraise for pediatric cancer research and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. The event is an ongoing fundraiser in which all 34 members of the baseball team are actively engaged.
“If you look at the fundraising page, it shows everyone who has donated,” Glenn said. “Everyone has their own page and it shows who on our team has contributed. [It’s] not a competition but guys can see ‘Hey, he raised $300 today! That’s great.’”
In their efforts, the Red and Blue shattered their original goal of $5,000 by raising $9,700 in their short effort of two and a half months. Their most noticed effort for this cause took place on Feb. 4. 20 of the 34 members on the team shaved their heads while some of the players even shaved their fellow teammates’ heads.
“We set a date and said that if we reach our goal, we were gonna shave our heads,” sophomore infielder Mike Vilardo said. “We got [our goal] pretty quickly and it was a way to assimilate with the kids and be able to … help them feel comfortable in their own skin.”
Not only did they shave their heads, but eight of the players — including Vilardo and Glenn — visited the pediatric cancer ward in CHOP. The baseball players visited with the kids and shared an afternoon of laughs and good cheer.
“It was my personal highlight of the fall,” Vilardo said. “You know, being in college and being an athlete, you have a lot of fun on and off the field but being able to give back to kids who are really fighting something is really special.
“It was an eye-opening experience and made me really appreciate the little things especially my family and being here at Penn.”
With the team working together, Yurkow is helping to affect the culture in the Penn baseball locker room. An event like this creates a sense of cohesion that mere offseason workouts and conditioning can’t accomplish.
“A lot of the guys have bought in,” Glenn said with a big smile. “Everyone thought it was a good team thing and everyone thought it was good cause, which is the best thing.”
With this fundraiser, the Red and Blue have set a positive tone heading into the season. And in the minds of the players, there was no better way to unite and band together under a cause. In this way, they have not only bettered themselves, but also the kids whom they look forward to delivering a $10,000 check to in two months.
For the Quakers, it’s all about the kids.
“[We] just want to be able to show [the kids] that we are here for them, fighting the cancer with them,” Vilardo said.
“Obviously we can’t do what they are doing, but we want them to know that they are our idols.”