BASEBALL TEAM COMES TOGETHER TO HELP "SHE WILL WIN" CAMPAIGN

Written by Nan Turner, VCU Athletic Communications Student Assistant

The team that plays together stays together; but so does the team that helps those in need together. The Rams baseball team recently went out of their way to aide a member of the community that has shown them so much support throughout the season.

It all started when Chester resident and local business owner, Mary Schindel was diagnosed with AML, a form of Leukemia, in 2006. Schindel has been a close friend of recent VCU graduate, and outfielder, Michael Cheatham's family for many years. She and her husband have four children who are the same ages as the Cheatham boys.  

Schindel went through treatment and four years of remission only to discover that she would need a bone marrow transplant. In response the Cheatham's and others in the community put together a campaign to help their neighbor called "She Will Win". Together the group started work to hold a bone marrow drive through the "Be the Match" foundation.

They distributed flyers, started fundraising and ordered hot pink bracelets to be worn in honor of Schindel's fight. The drive was scheduled to take place on January 20, a Thursday night, from 4-8 p.m. Those participating gathered in an empty business space in the Chester Village shopping center.

Rebecca Mathis, the contact person from "Be the Match", informed the Cheatham's that successful drives usually resulted in 35-45 people being swabbed to see if they were a correct bone marrow match. Mathis also told the group that she had recently helped at a VCU drive where over 100 individuals were swabbed, they eagerly told her that they expected to surpass that number. That night the "She Will Win" drive swabbed over 400 volunteers; setting a new foundation record for the number of people swabbed in a four hour time period, and for the most money raised in a single event.

However, perhaps the most noteworthy moment of the night was when a group of 20 visitors wearing their VCU baseball jackets walked through the door. Vickie Cheatham and her husband watched in awe as their son and his teammates sat down to be swabbed.

"Words cannot express the pride David [Mr. Cheatham] and I felt when we turned and saw those young men coming through the door, decked out in their black RAMS jackets," she said.  "A hush came over the event as people stopped and watched each and every one of them greet Mrs. Schindel."

The players then filled out their paperwork, got tested as marrow matches, ate some food, and visited with local residents. The Cheatham's middle son, Andrew, attends and plays baseball at Randolph Macon College. He, a teammate, and some of the RMC softball players also showed up.

"Everyone was so touched by their kindness, maturity and willingness to help in our fight against cancer," Vickie Cheatham said.

Before leaving about 45 minutes later, the team stopped to say goodbye to Mary Schindel, the very woman they'd come to support. As Vickie Cheatham walked by she stopped and observed as the team formed a circle, hand-in-hand with Schindel and participated in a prayer led by VCU senior and second-baseman Paul Nice.

The drive was more than a success numbers wise, Schindel found a bone marrow match and is currently going through the transplant process. Anyone interested in learning more about the "She Will Win" cause, or wishing to make a donation can visit the "Be the Match" website and follow the link to the "She Will Win" drive and Mary Schindel.

Those watching the VCU baseball team over the last few months may have noticed something different when watching them slug a hit or catch a fly ball; the team members that attended the drive continued to wear their pink "She Will Win" bracelets the remainder of the season. It was a way to spread awareness and help them remember the service they provided. For the other 380 drive participants seeing the team reach out and aide someone in need was reminder enough.

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