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Honoring a Game-Changer On and Off The Field

Posted April 23, 2018 in News Category
mt14458webresFrom left, Rhonda, Claire and Aaron Robert with Southeast Missouri State baseball coach Andy Sawyers.

As Rhonda Robert stood on the field of Capaha Park before Southeast Missouri State University’s baseball game on Saturday, she remembered when her then-four-year-old daughter Claire would play catch with her son, Kaden. He was 15 years old at the time. A baseball player for his high school in Benton and travel team, he was a pitcher and a catcher.

Four years later, Claire was getting ready to throw out the first pitch of the Redhawks’ Green Up Game, designed to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation while also honoring donors and celebrating with transplant recipients. Claire’s toss would have made her brother proud: Right over the plate.  

In 2014, Kaden’s life was taken by an accidental shooting. He saved five lives and helped many more as an organ and tissue donor. Claire’s first pitch was in honor of her big brother, who was a game-changer on and off the field. “My heart was full,” Rhonda said of the on-field moment at Capaha Park. “Full of pride, and love and hope … hope that the people here witnessing this can find the courage to do the same, to be a positive influence and a game-changer in someone else’s life.”

Kaden was well-known, well-loved and a leader on his sports teams in school. Kaden’s passion for baseball inspired his family to create organ donation awareness events with the Benton High School baseball team and in the surrounding communities. In fact, Saturday’s Green Up Game was inspired by families like the Roberts, who have raised awareness at their own Green Up Games. Since 2014, Kaden’s family has organized 14 Green Up games, raising thousands of dollars to support transplant patients waiting for a lifesaving gift and inspiring thousands of people to join the organ and tissue donor registry providing hope to those in need of a transplant. “Kaden is our inspiration, he’s our drive for what we’re doing,” Rhonda said. “He’s always there inspiring us and giving us the courage to go forward.”

Liam’s Running First Pitch
Four-year-old Liam Gregory walked out to the pitcher’s mound with his parents, Jessica and Laramy. He took the ball from his dad’s hand as they encouraged him to throw the ball to the catcher, crouched behind the plate. Liam ran.

img5414-webresLiam puts a ceremonial first pitch in the glove of the catcher.

He ran right down the middle of the plate and dropped the ball in the catcher’s glove. The crowd responded with laughter and cheers, enjoying the playful moment of a young boy. For Laramy and Jessica, it was a moment worthy of laughter and thanks. About two years ago, they couldn’t imagine Liam running on a baseball field.

“That was great,” Laramy said. “To be able to see him do something like that, they told us he may never be able to walk. It’s just great to come out and show what he can do. It’s an honor to be able to show donor families what their gift does. It gives life, and it’s the greatest gift they could give.”

In 2015, just before his second birthday, Liam was rushed to the hospital, where his heart stopped beating and he had a stroke. After doctors revived Liam, he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Liam received a lifesaving heart transplant on Christmas Day 2015. He was able to “throw out” a first pitch at Capaha Park on Saturday because someone else made a generous and heroic decision to be an organ and tissue donor.   

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