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December 20, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

For 3 teammates, baseball diamond a refuge from tragedy

Canyon Springs High baseball and softball programs help raise money for childhood cancer

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Canyon Springs hitter Rashaad Jones waits for a pitch during their game against Western Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The Pioneers wore pink jerseys for the game for cancer awareness and to honor parents of two of the players who died from cancer in the past year.

Canyon Springs Cancer Awareness

A Canyon Springs player watches from the dugout  during their game against Western Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The Pioneers wore pink jerseys for the game for cancer awareness and to honor parents of two of the players who died from cancer in the past year. Launch slideshow »

The three outfielders on the Canyon Springs High baseball team raced to their positions Wednesday wearing pink jerseys for the program’s cancer awareness day against visiting Western.

During the course of the game, they surely glanced toward the bleachers hoping to spot loved ones, knowing the one person they most wanted to see most wouldn't be there.

Seniors Rashaad Jones, Isiah Carter and Joe Jackson III each had a parent die in the past year, giving new meaning to their afternoons of baseball. The diamond has become a place to take their mind off their respective tragedies, using the time together to aid the healing process.

Wednesday’s game wasn’t about beating Western, which they did 13-0 in four innings. And the pink uniforms symbolized more than awareness — it was about paying tribute to cancer victims, especially those hitting the team the hardest.

Tiffany Hymon-Jones, Rashaad’s mother, and Breonte Porter, Carter’s mom, both died of breast cancer. Hymon-Jones died last May, Porter died last fall and Joe Jackson Jr. also died last fall, of a heart disease unrelated to cancer.

“I really feel for those kids,” Canyon Springs coach Todd Faranda said. “I grew up with a mom and dad who were overly involved and there for everything.”

Consoling players when their parents were battling illness was therapeutic for the coach. Faranda had cancer of the intestine when he was a child, lifting up his shirt to show incision marks from surgery when he was just 8. The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada was there every step of the way, helping ease the burden of medical bills, travel to a hospital in California and for emotional support.

Kelly Webb, the group’s development coordinator, says 75 Nevada children are diagnosed with cancer each year. With the support provided to siblings of the victims, they help more than 600 children annually. That means every penny counts, even if it’s the $760 raised by players at Canyon Springs, located in one of Southern Nevada’s more economically unstable areas.

Faranda constantly tells the players it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. What’s important is staying true to yourself and never forgetting where you are from.

That’s why Wednesday was so significant. The coach never forgot the cancer nonprofit that helped his family, becoming teary-eyed when reminiscing of his cancer battle with Webb before the game. For the players, it was about continuing to keep the memory of their deceased parents alive.

Those memories are still fresh.

The 17-year-old Jones remembers his mom as a fighter, someone who beat cancer multiple times before a relapse took her life at the young age of 43. Some knew Hymon-Jones, who ironically was a graduate of Western High, as an expert baker because she made pastries for celebrations such as birthdays and weddings.

She always wanted her own store, which family continues to operate in North Las Vegas. Cakes by Toi on Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alexander Road makes some of her recipes.

“We had a playful relationship,” Jones said. “She would always (playfully) tap me on the chest when we were playing around. I miss that. Everything is harder without my mom.”

Carter and Jackson, who were also teammates on the football team, had their parents die within weeks of each other during the football season. Despite the heartache, neither missed practice and helped Canyon Springs advance to the regional semifinals. Losing a parent is a fraternity no teenagers wants to be part of, but these young men have handled themselves with dignity.

They used the support system of each other, and their coaches at Canyon Springs, to continue enjoying the high school experience. They’ve learned the value of being a true friend.

“We have that close bond of losing someone close to us. We have each others’ back,” said Jackson, who scored three runs in the win.

While it was one game, a simple gesture and modest donation, it carried much more significance in the healing process for three ballplayers. They sure looked good in pink.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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