Le Moyne College athletes wear Beads of Courage in fight against cancer

(WSYR-TV) - This fall, more than 400 Le Moyne College student-athletes and athletics department staff will wear Beads of Courage during a warm-up or practice and then pass it on to a child battling cancer.

Through the program, which was launched at Golisano Children's Hospital n 2010, a child will receive one Bead of Courage for each cancer treatment completed.

"It's very heartbreaking to see how many beads young kids have in that stage of life," said Jennifer Fabian, Asst. Athletic Director for NCAA Compliance at Le Moyne. "When I found out we were doing it here as an all-department initiative, I was like, this is great. It's so cool to be involved and hopefully be able to touch their life."

Susan Bertrand, founder of Maureen's Hope, says there is need for a lot of beads as thousands of children are battling cancer every day. In the past, Syracuse University and the Syracuse Crunch have participated in the program.

The dream, she says, is to see more college athletes and professional athletes participating in Beads of Courage.

The movement starts within the Dolphin community.

On the mound as a freshman pitcher for the Dolphins Baseball squad is Jack Sheridan, a cancer survivor and now a student-athlete wearing a Bead of Courage for someone else.

His battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia began in 2014.

"When I was going through treatment, I always got cards in the mail saying, keep fighting, stay positive and all that," Sheridan said. "That's what I told the kids. I told them keep fighting, keep on faith, keep believing that you're going to be alright."

A few weeks ago, Sheridan had his final cancer treatment. 

The night before his treatment the student-athlete community gathered to support their teammate. 

"There was a number of student-athletes that came up and hugged him without even knowing him," said Matt Bassett, the Assistant Vice President & Athletics Director. 

As Sheridan said, he's now, "cancer-free," he is joining his team to help others feel strength and courage in their battle.

"My baseball team -- I just tell them how important it is to these kids, getting these little messages really do help and can be the difference between making it and not making it," Sheridan shared.

For basketball teammates Joanna Dobrovosky, a senior forward, and Madison Purcell, a junior guard, they are looking at Beads of Courage as a way to make their team even stronger and to think about all they have to be grateful for.

"It's really inspiring to know that we can help in just this small way because we have so may opportunities here," Dobrovosky said. "We get to play basketball and we get to go to school. Just to know that we are helping kids in such a small way helps us to push harder."

Each student-athlete will also write a personal message on a small card that will be given to a child battling cancer.

"They know it's coming from our team as a whole, but then individually you can really show something that we've gone through individually to help them push through," Purcell shared. 

As a part of the program, each person who gives a bead back will have a matching bead keepsake that can be attached to a key chain, bag or backpack. Maureen's Hope founder Susan Bertrand says it serves as a constant reminder of the courage passed on and a lasting bond.

Many of the student-athletes focused on their campus community's strength through Inside the L Culture which has a theme this year of, Gratitude Attitude.

"There are people out there that are fighting things that are much bigger than we're doing on and off the field," said Justin Hussey, a senior on the Le Moyne Lacrosse team. 

For both student-athletes and staff, the meaning of this movement is special.

"The bead for me, it just symbolizes perspective," said Fabian, Asst. Athletic Director for NCAA Compliance. "It symbolizes when you're wearing this you have the opportunity to get out in the field every single day if you wanted to run sprints. Even if it's not your favorite thing to do, but you have the opportunity to do that."

Bassett, the Assistant Vice President & Athletics Director, says other colleges and even professional sports organizations should consider joining Beads of Courage.

"We get as much as we give for our kids in our community to really be able to learn how simple it is and it's free to give hope and inspiration to others," Bassett shared.

To learn more about Beads of Courage and Maureen's Hope Foundation, click here.


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