Holy Cross and TMLA Take Swings at Cancer

Members of the Holy Cross baseball and The Mary Louis Academy softball programs kicked off their “Win for Cancer” campaign with a wiffle ball game. (Photo courtesy of The Mary Louis Academy)

Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, and The Mary Louis Academy (TMLA), Jamaica Estates, are located just over six miles apart in the borough of Queens.

So it’s natural that a partnership has developed between these schools, especially when it comes to their athletic programs.

The Hilltoppers’ cheerleading squad roots on the Knights’ football team each fall, and the Knights then graciously open up their gymnasium to the Hilltoppers’ basketball teams each winter.

As this year’s spring sports season got underway, Mary Louis Athletic Director Joe Lewinger, his assistant Kevin O’Hagan, Holy Cross Athletic Director Ron Vallar and his assistant Tim Gilvary met to discuss what the two schools could do to further that already-fruitful partnership.

“We asked the question, ‘How can we add a charitable, service-oriented aspect to our athletic program in the spring?’” Lewinger said.

After some discussion, it was decided that Holy Cross baseball and Mary Louis softball would team up this spring for a “Win for Cancer” campaign on both the junior varsity and varsity levels.

Now that the season is underway, Holy Cross will donate $10 for each CHSAA league win, and TMLA will donate $20 of each GCHSAA league win, since baseball has twice as many games as softball. Parents can also make donations by sponsoring their child for individual achievements throughout the season.

“When you watch these Major League Baseball games, they’re always doing ‘Strikeout for Cancer’ or donating for every home run,” Gilvary said.

“So we said the big leagues do that, why don’t we try to do that … except for wins.”

All the funds raised from the combined wins this season will be donated to Sunrise Day Camp in Wyandanch, L.I. It is the only summer day camp in the country fully dedicated for children ages three-and-a-half through 16 with cancer and their siblings.

“It’s very important, and the girls are very excited to help the cause in any way possible,” said Toni Ann Campuzano, TMLA’s varsity softball coach. “The girls are very excited to team up with Holy Cross.”

The camp is free of charge to all children being treated for cancer, so the fundraising aspect – such as the current Win for Cancer campaign – goes a long way in providing children with a nurturing environment.

In 2008, Lewinger’s twins, Madison and Jack, were both diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a form of kidney cancer, and began attending Sunrise Day Camp.

“It’s a way to provide a sense of normalcy and opportunity for kids who are forced to live a very isolated, very depressed life,” said Lewinger of the camp.

Jack was cleared of cancer in 2009. Though Madison has relapsed twice, the family is hopeful that the cancer is now under control.

So far, the players on the Holy Cross and TMLA teams have rallied behind the cause – knowing that each of their wins will help make a difference in children’s lives.

“The Mary Louis community was really affected when they saw how shocking it was for Mr. Lewinger,” said Megan White, TMLA’s junior varsity softball coach. “Thankfully it ended up positive for him. For many people, it doesn’t end that positively.”

While winning shouldn’t be everything in sports, it really should be this spring for these two programs – not for the glory but instead for the support of the Win for Cancer cause.

These student-athletes are learning firsthand that sports can be used as a vital means of helping others.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at