“Kids Jam” Fundraiser to Be Held Saturday, May 15 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm at Ashbrook Golf Course

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- When the Scotch Plains-Fanwood 12U Blue baseball team began planning their Cooperstown Kids Jam, they knew it would be a great way to raise funds for their trip to Cooperstown. They also wanted to use this opportunity to devote a portion of the funds raised to benefit their Scotch Plains-Fanwood neighbors affected by cancer. They never thought that one of those neighbors would be found right in their very own dugout.

In early April, shortly after celebrating his 12th birthday, team third basemen and catcher Jacob Benedicto began experiencing stomach pains. A trip to the emergency room revealed the presence of a tumor, and the Benedicto family was referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering. A series of tests there confirmed every parent’s worst nightmare — Jacob was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

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Ron Benedicto, Jacob’s dad, revealed the news to his fellow team parents via the team’s group chat, asking them to keep Jacob in their thoughts and prayers.

“As soon as we heard the news, we were all crushed,” said 12U Blue manager John Hutchinson. “Our team has been together for many years now, and we’re a pretty tight-knit group. Our hearts hurt not only for Jacob, but for his mom and dad, Queenie and Ron, and his sister, Francesca, and brother Jordan.”

After sharing the news with their children that Jacob had been diagnosed with cancer, the team  devised ways to help Jacob and his family. Through a team collection, they purchased Gio Urshela’s jersey, which die-hard Yankee fan Jacob proudly wore to his next chemotherapy treatment. New York Yankee announcer and ESPN Radio host Michael Kay was asked to send a simple “Get Well” message, but instead recorded a video with an offer of tickets to a Yankee game and a visit to the YES network booth to meet him and his broadcast partners.

Closer to home, the kids wanted to honor their teammate and turn their “Kids Jam” fundraiser into an event that would make Jacob smile. The team created “Jamming for Jacob” stickers, which the 12U Blue team would wear on their batting helmets. “We asked our printer for 50 stickers, and he pointed out that the cost between 50 & 500 was a difference of a few dollars,” said Karen DeBernardis, whose son Zack plays on the 12U Blue team. “We decided to print 500, thinking that we’d maybe bring the extra stickers with us to Cooperstown in June.” 

The team posted about the stickers on the SPF Community Facebook page, and within minutes, parents and coaches from teams all across town sent messages requesting stickers for their teams. “It was incredible,” said DeBernardis. “We immediately had coaches reaching out to us, SPFHS varsity players, T-ball moms and dads, and hockey and lacrosse parents and coaches.”

Within 24 hours of posting about the stickers, all 500 had been distributed, and another 1,000 had been ordered. “We’ve now distributed over 900 stickers, and we receive requests every day,” said DeBernardis. “The support of not just our baseball community, but other sports as well has been incredible to see.”

Additional encouragement of the team’s efforts came from parents who donated to the “Kids Jam” fundraising event and the Benedicto family. Several teams took up collections to raise the $200 entrance fee and will place their player’s names in a hat and select a winner to represent their team at the “Kids Jam” event. 

“I know better than most just how incredibly generous the SPF community can be,” said Jamey Crimmins, founder of the Jam Kancer In the Kan Foundation, whose son Brady also plays on the 12U Blue team. “Our annual SPF Kancer Jams have grown from raising $14,000 in our first event in 2014 to over $125,000 in 2019. The primary reason for these events’ success can be attributed to the generosity of the residents and businesses of our SPF community.” 

With all the funds now raised for the trip to Cooperstown, U12 Blue will pay it forward by donating the balance of the proceeds generated to the Jam Kancer In the Kan Foundation. While the team wants to help as many struggling families as they can, their quest is now personal as their teammate battles cancer, and they are encouraging others to contribute to these efforts. 

The Kids Jam event will place on Saturday, May 15 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Ashbrook Golf Course in Scotch Plains. Teams of two (one adult/one child) will compete in a Kan Jam-style tournament versus other teams, with each team receiving Kids Jam/Jamming for Jacob t-shirts, a barbecue lunch, and the chance to compete for the title. The championship team will receive the Kids Jam Trophy, along with a Sony PS5. Teams interested in registering for Kids Jam may do so by clicking this link: https://ecf.networkforgood.com/projects/53597-cooperstown-kids-jam-registration

If you would like to donate to the Kids Jam event, visit https://ecf.networkforgood.com/projects/53572-scotch-plains-fanwood-cooperstown-kids-jam. If you would like to request “Jamming for Jacob” stickers for your team or organization, email info@jamkancerinthekan.com.

The Jam Kancer In The Kan Foundation began in a backyard in Scotch Plains in 2014, and has now raised over $1,500,000 to benefit families affected by this disease by hosting “Kancer Jam” events in communities and NHL cities. To learn more, visit www.jamkancerinthekan.com.

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