LAGRANGE — Keirstin Roose and Kendall Moore knew they had a senior project to do. They found inspiration to complete it from someone in their own community.
The Lakeland High School seniors are organizing a Hit, Pitch and Run event for all the schools of the Northeast Corner Conference to compete in. There are softball and baseball competitions, where players will test their hitting, pitching and running abilities all in the name of bragging rights.
All proceeds for the event are going to Jayden White, a Lakeland Intermediate School student who is battling osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, for the third time. He’s only 11 years old.
“I know what it’s like to go through that,” Moore said. “Half of my family has had cancer … I know how much those medical bills are and how hard it can be, so why not look into our community to see who we can really help and see who needs it the most?”
Moore and Roose chose this style of an event after they participated in one as kids. It’s an MLB-sanctioned event, so the two made sure to change the official name of the event slightly.
“We actually changed it to hit, pitch and run because we didn’t want to have any copyright issues,” Roose said. “Not that the MLB would actually notice we’re doing it.”
T-shirts are being made and sold for the event. Moore and Roose have been getting sponsors from the LaGrange area to donate to the event. Donations are also being accepted through a GoFundMe online. The duo’s goal is to raise $2,000 for the White family to use towards medical bills.
The scheduled date for the event is Oct. 18 at the Lakeland softball and baseball fields. Softball competition will begin at 1 p.m., with the baseball festivities starting at 4 p.m.
At nine years old, Jayden White started complaining of a pain in his hip. His parents wrote it off as growing pains until the pain wouldn’t go away. They took their son to the doctor, who ordered Jayden to get an MRI to further examine what the issue was.
That’s when doctors noticed the cancerous mass growing in Jayden’s body. By the end of the week, Jayden was checked into Riley’s Children Hospital in Indianapolis.
“It was weird,” Jayden’s father, Tracy White, said. “It just seemed like growing pains and it turned out to be something so humongous.”
The news didn’t seem real to Jayden.
“For me, I didn’t really understand what was going on because I was so young,” Jayden said. “I heard that I got cancer and was like, ‘What?’ I knew what cancer was … I only thought older people, like 20 or higher, get cancer. And here I am, I’m nine years old.”
Jayden underwent six months of chemotherapy before having his hip removed and replaced with a titanium rod. Cancer than did something unexpected and traveled into Jayden’s lungs. He had to have surgery to remove cancer that had almost completely overtaken his lungs. Tracy said the doctors had never seen cancer do that before.
After removing it from his lungs, it traveled to his shoulder. He had his humerus bone removed from his left shoulder, losing all mobility from the shoulder to the elbow. As of now, Jayden has metal in his shoulder, hip and leg since cancer had also traveled to his leg.
“When they go from being so innocent to having to know so much in a matter of a year, it totally changes your aspect of what is important,” Tracy said. “He went from being the kid that wanted to run around and play video games, hang out with his friends to, all of a sudden, he’s trapped in a hospital.”
“I kept thinking it was a dream,” Jayden added. “I kept saying ‘This is just a dream, right?’ It was just so bad that it didn’t feel like it could’ve been real. … I just thought it was a horrible dream that I was going to wake up from at any second.”
Despite numerous rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, Jayden hasn’t lost his smile and charming personality. When Moore and Roose first met with Jayden a couple of weeks ago, they were both amazed by his attitude and outlook on life.
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, he’s normal,’” Roose said. “I didn’t expect him to be so positive about his situation and charismatic. It kind of made me take a step back.”
“He is so positive and it’s just inspiring to look at him,” Moore added. “It gives you a different outlook on things. If he can deal with that, I can deal with things that I go through. He’s just such an inspiration to me.”
Jayden doesn’t get many visitors, so when Moore and Roose visited for the first time, he welcomed them with open arms.
“I like having company,” Jayden said. “I can’t really get out and about all that well anymore. It’s nice when people come over to my house and visit.”
The community has been rallying around Jayden this entire summer. In July, Jayden’s fourth-grade teacher, Holly Elwood, organized a parade through downtown LaGrange where people drove by and waved to Jayden and his family. More than 350 cars showed up, and Jayden was even allowed to ride a fire truck during the event.
Without that support, Jayden isn’t sure if he would’ve been able to make it through the last two years.
“That really cheers me up and makes me feel like I’m worth something,” Jayden said. “After all of this, you feel worthless. The support makes you worth something for the time being. You feel special.”
Organizing the event has been a lot of work for the Lakeland seniors, but both Moore and Roose know their work is going for a worthy cause.
“Sometimes I find myself contemplating why I put myself through all of this stress, and then I look at it and know we’re doing it for such a great kid,” Moore said.