Imagine being told that you have cancer. Now imagine hearing those words as an eighteen-year-old. That wasn’t a dream; it was a reality for Chase Jones. Jones took his experiences and founded Vs. Cancer determined to help children faced with a similar diagnosis. We had the opportunity to speak with Brant Masters, Vs Cancer’s Associate Campaign Director about their mission to help pediatric cancer patients.
Vs. Cancer’s story began while Jones was a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A student-athlete, he was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer in 2006. He returned to the field after treatment to an outpouring of support that would later become a building block for Vs. Cancer’s fundraising events.
“After going through treatment and coming back to the field, his teammates shaved their heads and raised money for him. They did it on their own and through social media. After the event, Chase stepped back and said ‘holy crap they did this by themselves and raised this amount of money.'”
Jones managed Vs. Cancer out of his house and was the CEO, marketer, and administrator for the first year. To gain experience, Jones would go and work with St. Baldrick’s Foundation after school. His experience at the foundation inspired the 50/50 model that Vs. Cancer uses today.
“Chase was like ‘I was one of these kids. I was the one realized in the hospital day in and day out was the hardest part.’ Chase wanted to give locally. 50 percent of the proceeds we raise will go to research grants; the other 50 percent is going to the local pediatric hospital of the team’s choice.”
Less than five percent of government research goes towards pediatric cancer efforts. Other cancer foundations have the benefit of a larger platform and, therefore, a louder voice.
“Kids feel more out of place because they have cancer. Because there is a lesser voice, the government isn’t pushed to fund more. That’s why we find it even more important to play a part in research and more importantly the day-to-day life of these kids.”
To date, Vs. Cancer and their events have helped over 40,000 kids nationwide. Before deciding to give funding to a hospital, they have three criteria:
- They want to know exactly the type of project that the money is going to fund.
- Is it a project that is going to impact these kids on a daily basis?
- How many kids will the project impact?
There have been a variety of projects such as music therapy, Philadelphia Phillies games, and many others designed to bring normalcy to children’s lives. It’s not just about their lives while they’re undergoing treatment, but also as they transition back into their normal day-to-day lives. Programs such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s education program help accomplish those goals.
“We helped fund they’re educational program to help kids stay on top of their education and transition back to school. That has 2500 kids going through it because they’re such a large hospital. It’s cool to see the difference that we’ve been able to make.”
Masters was able to participate in a Vs. Cancer event while he played baseball at Furman University. He was able to experience an unforgettable moment that resonates with the foundation’s story.
“We had a girl that came out to our game. She got to hang out with the team and be an honorary captain. She lost her battle with cancer later that year. It was hard for the entire team.
The next year her parents came to the event [and] pulled me aside. They didn’t thank me for being a part of a team that raised $40,000. They didn’t thank me for shaving my head. She thanked me that the night that her daughter came to our game, it was the only night that they had seen their daughter smile since she had been diagnosed with cancer. She said ‘even though my daughter lost her life two months after your event, because of you guys she got one more night to be like a kid again.’”
Since their inception, college and high school baseball events have been the organization’s bread and butter. That began to change thanks to the involvement of Vince Marcucci, Trenton Thunder Director of Community Affairs and Rachel Mark, Director of Community Affairs for the Charlotte Knights. Together, the Thunder and Knights raise over $10,000 annually for Vs. Cancer.
“We want to work with the minor league teams to make it a community event. We’re trying to use the tools and the platform that we have to make a difference in their community. It’s also getting the community involved. We know that they’re trying to do promotions, it’s a business and they’re trying to put butts in the seats. We’re trying to do it in fun ways.
The Erie SeaWolves are reaching out to all of the high schools and colleges in the area. They’re going to have all of the kids out to a game for the Vs. Cancer Night. The winners get announced on the field for the team that raised the most money. The (Carolina) Mud Cats and Charlotte Knights are doing the same thing.
Scranton did an incredible job. For two or three straight years, the RailRiders combined their nights with Kids Nights. They invited Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help a cause that’s bigger than scouts, bigger than baseball.”
Long-term the foundation wants to cure cancer, but on a day-to-day basis, they want to fund projects that allow kids to feel like kids again. To learn more about Vs Cancer or to get involved, visit vs-cancer.org