ATLANTA — The voice mail on Dean Crowe’s phone told it all. Even after touching countless lives as the CEO and founder of the Rally Foundation, a nonprofit organization which raises money for children’s cancer research nationwide, one call reaffirmed her mission. The message was from a man who raised more than $50,000 for the foundation in six weeks with a golf tournament in Las Vegas.
“On the phone, I don’t think he realized what he did until he called to tell me,” Crowe said. “He broke down on the phone. He said, ‘This is for the kids.’ And I thought, ‘This is why I do it.’ There are people that desperately want to help. They just need a vehicle to do it.”
For four years, the Rally Foundation has been that vehicle. The foundation has given away more than $1.6 million in cancer research grants across the country, with 93 cents of every dollar Rally receives going toward research.
And on Tuesday night at Turner Field, the giving continued. Four Rally Kids — children who have fought or are fighting cancer — and their families had the opportunity to meet the Braves at batting practice before the team’s game against the Phillies, and then attend the game as guests of catcher Brian McCann and his wife, Ashley, who have been involved with the Rally Foundation since 2008 as spokespeople.
The event kicked off the Inaugural Rally Fantasy Baseball Tour, where various Rally Kids in Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Petersburg, Seattle and Los Angeles will have the opportunity to attend a Major League game and meet big league players. Fundraisers and hospital visits will be held in conjunction with these events.
The Braves will further support the Rally Fantasy Baseball Tour at the game through the donation of a portion of the proceeds from the 50/50 raffle.
“Brian and I are both from Atlanta,” Ashley said. “We’ve had family members and friends battle the deadly disease. When you throw kids in the mix, one child with cancer is one too many. Forty-six kids a day are diagnosed with it, and we wanted to help.”
So did Crowe four years ago. Her son, Jonathan, had a teammate during eighth grade on his East Cobb, Ga., baseball team who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The friend was named William Olsen, and he fought through 18 months of what seemed like successful treatment. But after an 18-month remission, the tumor returned. Crowe visited William at the hospital, where one particular trip changed everything.
“I walked in, and William had literally almost died that day. He was shriveled up to nothing,” Crowe said. “I said to his mom, ‘You have to tell me how I can help. I’m not making you dinner. This is so beyond dinner.’”
William’s mom, Nancy, said Crowe could raise money for childhood cancer research. So that’s what Crowe did.
Soon after, with the support of William’s family and friends, the Rally Foundation formed and experienced rapid success — even getting involved with the sporting goods company Mizuno. Crowe figured that was a great relationship, but then a Mizuno representative called one day and said he wanted to introduce Crowe to “this one kid.”
“And I was like, ‘Brian McCann?’” said Crowe, unaware of his baseball credentials. But after meeting with Brian and Ashley at a local Starbucks, that all changed.
“Most importantly, they just have a huge heart for the kids, and they go way behind being a spokesperson,” Crowe said of the McCanns. “They really, really care.”
From their first coffee meeting, both Brian and Ashley were hooked. They went home and researched children’s cancer and realized the Rally Foundation was the organization for them.
Since then, the McCanns have hosted a celebrity softball game and started the McCann 16 Home Run Challenge, which encourages people to pledge money for every home run McCann hits. Tuesday night, though, it was all about the four Rally kids and their families, as each received autographs and interacted with McCann after he took batting practice — smiling for photos and giving hugs.
“You just meet these kids and you think kids should be eating ice cream, watching baseball and playing soccer — not worrying about treatments and chemotherapy,” Ashley said. “That’s what it’s all about — helping these kids just be kids.”
With the help from the McCanns and the local community, Crowe has had her prayers answered.
“Our prayer was, ‘God would do more than we could ask or imagine,’” Crowe said. “And he absolutely has.”
Story by Chris Hempson / MLB.com