At age 4, Asher McGarrah is too young to be star-struck.
So when Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier recently visited City of Hope, Asher had no reservations about meeting him. He walked right up to the standout outfielder and poked him in the hip, pen in hand for an autograph.
|Dodgers owner Frank McCourt shares a smile with patient and Dodgers fan Alonzo Martinez. (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
“Hi! What’s your name?” said Ethier, who signed his cards and posed for photos. Asher may be too little to know much about Major League Baseball, but he knew enough to recognize that the visit was special.
Ethier and other members of the Dodgers organization traveled to City of Hope on Feb. 2 as part of their annual Dodgers Community Caravan. The Dodgers made the trip in support of ThinkCure, the organization’s official charity benefitting cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
The caravan crew included Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, former manager Tommy Lasorda, broadcaster Eric Collins and Dodgers legends Bobby Castillo, Tommy Davis, Al Downing, Ken Landreaux and Rudy Law.
Dodgers staff handed out bags with fleece blankets, towels, caps and other gifts to patients and family members at the Visitor Center event. Castillo signed autographs as Law and Landreaux sat with pediatric patients to help them with Dodgers-themed coloring pages, mazes and word games.
In addition to greeting families at the Visitor Center, Davis toured City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital’s sixth floor and Ethier and McCourt visited the hospital’s pediatrics unit.
McCourt encouraged young patients in their fight against cancer, inviting many to a game at Dodger Stadium. But for young Asher, attending an upcoming preschool birthday party would be his big first step back to normalcy.
Diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in late November 2009, Asher is one of City of Hope’s youngest patients with the disease, currently held in check through daily doses of the drug Gleevec. Getting the cheers and support of others helps, too, so the Dodgers visit made a difference.
“This was going to be his first year in T-ball,” said his mom, Cyndi McGarrah, as Asher tried to play catch with his older brother, Connor. “Now his energy can be down at times. When he’s around people — like today — it really seems to give him a lift.”