Red Land champs join fight against childhood cancer

Jessica Schladebeck

The Red Land Little League championship team has been up to a lot more than challenging "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon to a lip sync duel.

Members of the Red Land team joined patients battling childhood cancer for some arts and crafts

Their YouTube video, which a is a mashup of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" and Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," has nearly 40,000 views. Their dance skills and humor, however, were recently matched by their compassion and desire to give back.

The championship team on Monday donated more than $18,000 to the Four Diamonds, an organization dedicated to fighting childhood cancer, and an additional $7,000 or so to the national organization the Vs. Cancer Foundation. The team also spent the morning with those who were battling the disease at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

Red Land returns home as heroes

“We were excited to capture the United States Championship for Red Land Little League in Williamsport,” said Red Land Little League pitcher Cole Wagner. “But today, with the help of our incredible fans, the dollars we raised so far will take a big swing against cancer for the kids. We are proud to be on the Four Diamonds’ team with these all-stars in life.”

Fundraising: One of their fundraising initiatives includes the recently launched Red Land Little League online store.

In addition to official U.S. Little League Champion T-shirts, pins and posters, the store also includes baseball-style shirts, hoodies, a calendar, official Red Land hats and complete sets of baseball cards featuring the championship team. A portion of all proceeds are directed toward Four Diamonds.

The team's effort to raise funds has been ongoing since early August, when the players began their world series journey, spokesperson Lucy Gnazzo said.

They launched a pledge campaign through which people could pick an amount to donate in conjunction with the number of runs the team hit. They have also participated in several community nights, where portions of the ticket proceeds were directed to the charity and the rest put toward the Red Land Little League.

The players presented the check on Monday for all of the funds they had raised to date, but their efforts are ongoing, Gnazzo said.

"As 12- and 13-year-olds, helping other children was something that interested them," Gnazzo said. "The team decided they could use their recognition to create greater awareness, and it's become a very important mission to them."

The team also did a meet and greet with patients and their parents and joined them for a crafting session.

"We really just want to let the kids interact with kids and let them enjoy that," said Scott Gilbert, a spokesman for Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

The Red Land Little League Championship team on Monday presented a check to Four Diamonds

Four Diamonds: Mike McCauley, a Four Diamonds dad, praised the Red Land champions and League for their support.

“You boys have provided a rare commodity for kids in a children’s hospital: Smiles. Your success and your commitment to these children gave back some of the joy that had been stolen from them by this disease. The only thing better will be when we cure pediatric cancer,” McCauley told the team after the check presentation. “On behalf of Four Diamonds’ children and their families, thank you, and keep on batting against cancer."

The funds donated by the championship team will go toward all three parts of the charity's mission, said Suzanne Graney, director of Four Diamonds

The first is to help families take care of treatment costs, Graney said. The nonprofit, in conjunction with insurance providers, seeks to make sure the monetary aspect is covered for the families.

"We like to make sure that a family doesn't see a bill," she said.

Funds will also be put toward ensuring patients receive comprehensive care.

"That includes everything from a child life specialist — which helps them understand what's going on in their own education level — then there's also a therapeutic level which is really just helping to normalize their time while they're in the hospital and helping them hit regular development milestones."

Other types of care available for patients at no cost courtesy of the Four Diamonds include nutritionists, music therapists, pastoral care and care coordination for those with a more serious diagnosis.

The final tier of the mission directs funds toward research.

"Of course we're always looking for a cure," said Graney. "There are also a tremendous amount of side effects. Losing hair is the immediate thing that comes to mind but there can also be damage to bones and teeth, secondary cancers -- there are a lot of systems that can be affected so we're also looking for treatment methods that are less harsh."

Other events: The Red Land Little League champs have been keeping busy schedules since nabbing the title as best in the country.

The team last week put their skating skills to the test as guest players for the Hershey Bears, and this weekend will participate in national 2015 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

The team also visited Washington, D.C., in October and were recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives and Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators.  The team was hosted by Congressman Scott Perry, R-York County, and they enjoyed a pizza party with other members of Congress.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at