Wiffle for Cancer

By Ryan C., Age 19

My name is Ryan and I started the Wiffle for Cancer Tournament in 2005 as means to raise money for cancer research and to help lift the spirits of a friend of mine who had been diagnosed with cancer the previous fall. Nick was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma just before he was to leave for his first semester of college in France as part of a Colby College program for freshmen. Obviously, he was forced to forgo his first year of college to treat his cancer. He went through chemotherapy treatments and surgeries throughout 2004 and 2005. When I learned of his cancer I felt compelled to do something that would help raise his spirits and be a fun day for his family and friends. I tried to think of something that Nick loved that he would be able to share with his family and enable him to escape his cancer at least for an afternoon. Nick loved baseball. He played with passion that was unmatched by many of his teammates. I thought to myself: why not try to run a baseball tournament? That would be too difficult. There are not enough people who play baseball and in Nick’s considerably weakened condition, the most he could do would throw out some kind of ceremonial first pitch and watch. I wanted Nick to be able to make things happen and be an active participant in whatever it is that we would do. Then I remembered the age old barbeque pastime that is wiffleball. Wiffleball is an obnoxiously easy sport and rivals golf in terms of physical exertion. Certainly a cancer patient would be able to throw and hit a wiffleball. And so with an idea I set out to make the tournament happen.

I first had to figure out what to do. I was 17 at the time and had played in several soccer tournaments in my day but had never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be running a tournament. But here I was trying to run one and give it an atmosphere of competitiveness and charity. I tried to think of all the soccer tournaments I had played in and separate the good from the bad ones and determine what set those apart. Obviously lots of people needed to play so I started to advertise the tournament around my high school. Then I remembered that I was always happier at tournaments when food was available. So I called a few restaurants and tried line up a restaurant to donate food. I also thought it would be nice to have music playing at the tournament to give it a more relaxed atmosphere, so I found a band. With all of these things in place, I tried to figure out how exactly I would run the tournament. I found official wiffleball rules on the wiffleball website. I modified them slightly and tried to gage how many teams I thought would play to try and figure out the best format for the tournament. I had about 25 teams sign up online. So the day of the tournament came and hundreds of people showed up wanting to play. I let everyone play in the hopes that they would have fun and donate. That first tournament went off without a hitch. Nick had a fantastic time and when I would later visit him in the hospital, he would tell me how much fun he had that Sunday in June. We raised $10,000 that year. Almost immediately after the tournament I began planning for the next tournament.

Unfortunately, during this time Nick’s condition worsened and he eventually passed away in November, 2005. I don’t particularly like to talk about it, but it was tough to see someone that I had truly been hoping to see walk out of the hospital pass away. But in terms of the tournament I was unsure of how to go forward. I spoke with his family and they hoped that I would be willing to carry on the tournament. I was certainly happy to do so at their request. So I went into a second year of planning and resolved to run an even better tournament in Nick’s memory. I tried to make the play more organized by using a double elimination bracket. But it was still chaotic because we let people sign up on the day of the tournament. For a second year in a row we raised over $10,000.

Last fall I started my first year at the University of Notre Dame. So again the tournament was left in limbo. However I had asked two of my friends and Nick’s younger sister to run the tournament in my absence. As the tournament comes closer I could not be happier with the job that they’ve done. It should go off with few problems and be another testament to the love that a community can give.

The Nick Currey Fund