Little League holds National Cancer Survivor Month ceremony

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out Wednesday by Kate Lucarelli, a four-year-old girl from DeKalb. She was diagnosed with cancer in October 2020 and will finish treatment in January 2023.

4-year-old DeKalb girl battling cancer throws out first pitch

ROCHELLE — On Wednesday, the Rochelle Little League held a ceremony to honor National Cancer Survivor month for the fourth consecutive year.

Teams from every league gathered on the little league field for the ceremony. Banners were donated by local businesses commemorating the month and placed on each league’s field. Before every game in the month of June, somebody who has cancer, is a survivor or was lost to it will be acknowledged and the song “We will rock you” will be played.

"Our slogan is #WeWillRockYou,” Umpire Albert Burciaga said. “The meaning behind it is we're sending a message to cancer. Cancer, we're going to beat you, and we're going to rock you. The banners will stay up this whole month. Hopefully every time somebody dealing with cancer hears this song, they will know there's a whole community supporting them. We hope it will give you positivity and hope.”

Players from different leagues carried bases painted gold onto the field during the ceremony. Every player wore something gold. That’s the color of pediatric cancer, which the little league chose to focus on this year.

Little League Board Member Corey Kreider said the ceremony has gotten larger over the years and he believes it's a good platform to raise awareness so the young players can understand cancer better. It shows the community that the little league is a family and is there for support. 

"Especially with more and more kids getting diagnosed with cancer and more kids knowing family members that may have it, we just kind of want them to know that life is short and baseball is still a game and it's still fun to do it,” Kreider said. “Have fun and enjoy life. Life's too short to worry about the small stuff. The bigger the family, the bigger the support. The community's support makes little league a family."

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out Wednesday by Kate Lucarelli, a four-year-old girl from DeKalb. She was diagnosed with cancer in October 2020 two months shy of her third birthday and spent the first 3.5 weeks immediately after diagnosis in the pediatric intensive care unit. 

“This has now slowed her down at all,” Burciaga said. “She's a crazy spitfire. She loves to dance, have her nails done, talk on Facebook with family and friends and she can light up a room with her spunk and smile. Her family is blessed and thanks God she is almost done with treatment in January of 2023.”

Kate was joined by her family Wednesday and was presented with a hat and jersey with the pediatric cancer ribbon and #WeWillRockYou slogan.

During his presentation Wednesday, Burciaga said the event came together after the little league wanted to find a way to acknowledge those in the community dealing with cancer in their lives.

“We're acknowledging your fight and celebrating your life,” Burciaga said. “We know that's a long and painful experience. we're here to celebrate the fact that you're surviving it. For all of you in remission, we want to let you know to keep fighting. For all of you in the process of treatment, this is proof that cancer can be beat and there is hope. We will fight with you. And for all those that have passed on, we celebrate your life, and we will always remember you in our special way. We're here to dedicate this day and this month to all of you.”