(and those with cancer are still cool)
Cool Kids Campaign first began in memory of late Orioles shortstop Mark Belanger
It never seems to be the right order of things when people pass to death before the average human life span has been reached.
These were surely the thoughts of Ken and his former teammates as they were forced to bid goodbye to a teammate and friend in Belanger – eight-time Rawlings Gold Glove award winner – who passed from lung cancer October 6, 1998 at the young age of 54.
And although sometimes God’s plans deem a young death for reasons we cannot comprehend, none of us can do a darn thing about it … except to afterwards honor a loved one in some grand gesture.
In memory and honor of the shortstop stands a wonderful foundation called the Cool Kids Campaign (initially named the Belanger-Federico Foundation), started by Belanger’s son Rob and his close friend Chris Federico. The duo wanted to raise funds for lung cancer research by hosting a golf tournament to honor parents lost to cancer. (Chris’ mom Susannah died of leukemia.)
Enter idea genius and co-founder Sharon Perfetti, and four years later, the Cool Kids Campaign thrives with a cool list of programs: Cool Kids Cafe, Cool Kids Care Packages, Cancer Fears Me! product line, Cool Kids Reading Challenge, Cool Kids Family Support Fund and an array of other cool fundraisers to assist kids with cancer as they muddle through the ordeals of chemotherapy, radiation, and too many hospital visits.
“Dad went out of his way to bring smiles to kids’ faces when he gave autographs,” said Rob Belanger of his father Mark. “I think he’d be ecstatic about the campaign if he were alive now.”
His father probably would have become an ambassador he said, to help the program along as he rallied with his time and energy. Baltimorean Kimmie Meissner, a world champion figure skater, is an ambassador for the campaign and makes appearances at most of their events.
Ken, as an honorary board member, hosted their June 2009 golf tournament here in Baltimore. I have the pleasure of volunteering as copy editor for their Cool Kids Connection quarterly newspaper and assist with writing projects as needed.
The kids – mostly those being treated through Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland hospitals – are even treated to end-of-chemo parties, with cake and ice cream of course, because the Cool Kids Campaign philosophy is that kids are kids, regardless of if they’re sick or healthy.
“Every kid wants to feel cool even if they don’t feel well,” said Perfetti. “As we decide how to help these kids and best use the donated dollars … we try to make them forget, at least for a little while, that they are fighting for their lives.”
The Cool Kids Campaign is ready to take the organization to its next level. Knowing that kids with cancer spend most days in treatment with one caregiver while missing out on socializing, and feel different due to hair loss and surgical masks, the Cool Kids Care Center will be developed, offering a sterile facility for kids and families where they can be tutored, play, receive support, socialize, and share with other families facing the same challenges.
“I can hear Dad saying to his teammates, ‘C’mon! We’re going to pump this thing up!'” said Rob Belanger. “He’d be completely in their faces, ‘Let’s raise money!’ I think he would have really loved the organization and what we are accomplishing.”
How fans can help …
Should readers wish to make a donation to further the mission of the Cool Kids Campaign, there are three ways to donate:
1. Checks payable and mailed to Cool Kids Campaign, 9711 Monroe Street, Cockeysville, MD 21030
2. Donate through your company’s United Way campaign with the designated number 1121030.
3. Stock Transfers are accepted and delivered through electronic transfer: DTC# 0141 – Brown Advisory; A/C# 1051-7540 in name of Belanger-Federico-Perfetti Foundation, Inc.