By Julia Waraksy
KINGSTON, R.I. – The Rhode Island softball team will be raising awareness for the pediatric cancer foundation Go4theGoal, on Saturday, Sept. 22, during its fall game against St. Thomas Acquinas at the URI Softball Complex.
The September 22 game will be the third consecutive year that the Rams have fundraised with the Go4theGoal foundation. Rhody and St. Thomas Acquinas are schedule to play at 2 p.m. at the URI Softball Complex that day.
Junior pitcher Sarah Gunderson has taken the lead with the initiative since her freshman year, as it is a cause that has closely impacted her life. Gunderson already has raised more than $1,200 and has an overall goal of $5,000.
She has been involved with the foundation since its beginnings, back in 2006 when her godfather Chris Stefancci's nephew Richard was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, at the age of 14. Richard lost his battle with cancer just a few months shy of his 15th birthday, but Stefanacci wanted to create a foundation that would improve the lives of children battling cancer, thus Go4theGoal was established.
"Since I was a little girl, the Stefancci family has been a big part of my life," said Gunderson. "They've always supported me, so it's my turn to support them."
Throughout the past three years, Gunderson has been passionately involved with raising money and awareness for Go4theGoal across campus. As just a freshman, she pushed to get her Rhody teammates involved. Every year since, the team garners yellow laces on their cleats, and other yellow memorabilia on game day.
"An easy way to not only raise money, but to raise awareness was getting all of the girls to change their white laces on their cleats to yellow laces," said Gunderson. "Last year, our awareness game was against Providence in the fall. I only expected them to wear them for that game day, but they decided to keep them for the whole season. It really meant a lot to me because they wanted to continue to support me and the cause."
Last year, the softball team began its conference season with a series against George Mason. In Fairfax, Va., both teams took part in Go4theGoal, by wearing yellow and supporting Tara Sanker. Sanker is 13 years old who was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called Astrocytoma in 2013.
"The fact that we were not only able to help Go4theGoal, but also support Tara, it was pretty awesome," said Gunderson. "I think it was important that she got recognized and that people are willing to help find cures for all types of pediatric cancer."
Within the college softball athletic community, there is always ample support. Since the fall of 2016, the University of Rhode Island softball team has gotten Providence College softball and George Mason softball involved with Go4theGoal. Gunderson, along with her teammates and the coaching staff hope to continue to get other universities and colleges involved throughout the following years.
"I was so excited that the St. Thomas Acquinas softball team also wanted to participate and help fight against pediatric cancer with us," Rhode Island Head Coach Bridget Hurlman said. "I think going through pediatric cancer as a family must be such a tough battle and us being a part of helping other families reach their goals will give us a great perspective on how to achieve ours."