Phillies recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with cutouts of ‘courageous kids’

Phillies' Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Photo credit Miles Kennedy/Phillies
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Sharon Snyder is a lifelong Phillies fan, but she admittedly didn’t pay attention to the Phils’ 6-0 shutout of the Nationals on Tuesday. 

Instead, she watched her late son, Kyle, smile on TV for everyone to see, all from one of the best seats in the house. 

Kyle’s image is one of many gold cardboard cutouts of kids placed in the sections behind home plate during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

“My Kyle was right there the entire time,” Snyder enthused. “It was literally difficult for me to focus on the game, concentrate on the game for the first half of it or so because I was in awe. I could not take my eyes off of seeing my child right there every time I looked at the screen. It was so surreal. 

Kyle succumbed to cancer in 1998 at the age of 2. Snyder said the photo on his cutout is from the last time he went to the stadium. 

Not too long after his death, Snyder founded the Kisses For Kyle Foundation, a nonprofit that helps kids and families dealing with childhood cancer. 

“Childhood cancer — the disease — is the No. 1 killer in children right outside of accidents,” she said. 

Snyder has been determined to carry out Kyle’s memory by helping others. Along the way, the organization teamed up with the Phillies to spread awareness. 

“I couldn’t do something like that without a platform like this,” she added. 

“These kids and these families are just so amazing, and their strength is just so contagious,” said Michele DeVicaris, Phillies director of community and charity events.

She said she can’t help wanting to “just make it all better for them somehow.”

This particular group of fan cutouts has been dubbed the Courageous Kid Section — others may recognize the section as Diamond Club seats. DeVicaris said it includes children who have died from cancer, those who are currently fighting or are now in remission, and survivors.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans are not allowed inside Citizens Bank Park. “Nobody can be there,” Synder said, “and then we’re all out of sorts because of it, and here we go … there are our children.”

“The families are just kind of beside themselves that they get this kind of recognition,” DeVicaris added. “They’re just overwhelmed and just so grateful that we were able to do something like this. That even if they can’t be in the ballpark, they know that their child is there and that they’re still visible and bringing so much awareness to this awful, awful thing that their family is facing.”

Cancer awareness amid a pandemic

Snyder said cancer awareness is even more important during the pandemic, as she’s seen countless examples of how the coronavirus has made an already tough situation tougher.

“It was difficult enough to raise the awareness when things were ‘normal,’ right? Then, the world got flipped upside down,” she said. 

In addition to the gold cutouts, the Phillies — through MLB’s league-wide initiative to bring attention to cancer — will be hosting Childhood Cancer Awareness Night during the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. 

This night would usually invite tons of kids and families to the ballpark, but this year will obviously be a virtual event. 

It will still include the annual Lineup of Courage — remotely — where nine kids would line up with the players and be introduced as their starting lineup. The virtual lineup will be revealed on Tuesday. 

There will also be a pre-recorded version of the national anthem sung by 11-year-old Jason Stock, who dazzled everyone with his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at last year’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Night. Jason finished treatment for leukemia last summer.

The cardboard cutouts of these “courageous kids” will sit in the seats for the entire month, as the Phillies try to end an eight-year postseason drought. 

Kyle and other children will be there in spirit, taking in the action and rooting for the Phillies, while Snyder and other parents get to watch their smiling faces from behind home plate. 

“You could just feel the energy from where we were sitting at home to the stadium,” said Snyder. “We’d never thought they’d be in the stadium like that before, and there they are.”