Throughout the year, athletes lend their name to various causes. Twins pitcher Brian Duensing found a cause he feels so passionately about, he wears it on his chest — an idea inspired after some spring cleaning.
The National Institutes of Health estimate more than 10,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among kids under the age of 14. More than 1,000 children will die from the disease this year.
“I can’t imagine having to tell your son or daughter they’re sick and have to watch them go through the pain of trying to get better and treatments,” Duensing said. “That’s something that we don’t like to think about, but families have to think about it. It really pulls on my wife Lisa’s heartstrings. She had the idea to help them out.”
While cleaning out a closet, the Duensings found a handful of “Team Jack” T-shirts. Jack Hoffman was just 7 years old when he gained national attention. While undergoing treatment for brain cancer, the University of Nebraska let him score a touchdown during a spring football game. The Duensings have since became close with Hoffman’s family and have attended his fundraisers.
Empowered by the notion that a little bit of help is better than nothing, the Duensings are using the power of social media to help as many families as possible.
Last fall, Brian turned to his 21,000 twitter followers, asking them to send him T-shirts that support children with cancer. He’d wear one each day in September, which is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month.
The shirts poured in. Not just from Minnesota and Duensing’s home state of Nebraska, but from across the country.
“I thought we’d have 15 shirts or so. We had 47 by Sept. 8,” Duensing explained. “We had to pull some double-duty. I even gave some of the other guys in the clubhouse shirts to wear so we could get them all on.”
With each shirt came a story and the heartbreaking reality for the children and their foundations.
“I think around 80 percent of the families had lost a child. It was difficult to read and it still is,” Duensing said. “But our hope and the hope of the foundations and these families is to raise awareness so it doesn’t have to happen to another family.”
As he did last year, Duensing is sharing pictures of himself in a different shirt each day. With each tweet comes with a link for others to learn more about the group. The Duensings also make a donation to each of the featured organizations. They hope their action will inspire others to donate their time or money.
“I’m not asking for big hundred dollar donations,” he explained. “But maybe you’ll see a race in your city and sign up. Or donate $5. It all adds up.”
While the September selfie campaign comes to a wrap in two weeks, the Duensings’ work will not end there. The family started a foundation to help families affected by cancer or serious illness.
Their first fundraiser is in support of Camp CoHoLo, an eight-day long summer program that gives children with cancer a full camp experience. The foundation’s goal is to raise enough money to fund the camp for one summer. More information about the Camp CoHoLo Gala can be found on the foundation’s website.
There’s no way of knowing how much money Duensing’s online campaign has raised. This project is bigger than that. It’s shining a light on families who are facing their darkest moments. For that reason, a selfie has never been so important.