Number of Participants: 30
Hours Donated: 1
Value of Time Served: $254
Event Amount Raised: $3,795
Event Type: Children & Youth
School: Ward Melville Senior High School
Date: April 26, 2022
Ward Melville High School
Old Town Road, Setauket- East Setauket
The little guest of honor emerged between two rows of Ward Melville girls with bats raised. Jase Rossi heard Patriots coach Joseph Burger tell Rossi’s story to the crowd, then took a spot between the mound and the plate and threw out the first softball.
Saturday’s pregame ceremony wasn’t done yet. Rossi unwrapped his gift from the team.
A Nintendo Switch video game console.
Rossi is a Lake Ronkonkoma 7-year-old boy. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 5, on Jan. 31, 2020. He has been through so much since then — the ER visits, hospital stays, chemo drips, transfusions and more than 10 spinal taps.
But this day brought the second-grader joy. Why?
“Because I got a Nintendo Switch,” Rossi said happily and innocently.
This was a meaningful day in several ways. It was a childhood cancer awareness event set against the backdrop of Ward Melville’s game against visiting Brentwood, which featured the Patriots’ Victoria Killigrew throwing her first career no-hitter in a 12-0, five-inning win.
The girls wore special yellow jerseys. They were among those who helped raise $3,795 in online donations for a charity to be chosen by Rossi’s family. The money will go to Friends of Karen, which helps families with a child suffering from a life-threatening illness.
It’s the second straight year Burger’s team has taken up a cause. Last year, it was breast cancer. The team decided in January that childhood cancer was next. Then Burger met Rossi’s mom, Galit Yeffet, through a friend and heard about Jase’s situation.
“I believe big in charity,” Burger said. “I try to teach the girls beyond softball about being good young ladies. I’m very proud. They’re wonderful young ladies. They took up the cause and raised over $3,500. But it’s important to do things of this nature.”
Kelly Pepitone, whose daughter, Alicea, is a junior third baseman and captain, wholeheartedly agrees.
“It’s very important because it teaches the girls. The girls know to give back to the community, and it also [shows them] how lucky we are,” Pepitone said. “Sometimes we take for granted our health.”
The no-hitter and victory made this day even more special to Killigrew. The junior righthander lost two grandparents to cancer.
“It means not only a lot to me, but I think it means a lot to the team, too, to have this win, especially for this cause,” Killigrew said. “This means a lot for all of us, especially for people who know people with cancer, childhood cancer, any type of cancer like that.”
People like Jase Rossi.
“It’s nice that they had this day for him,” Yeffet said.
“It’s been a lot physically, emotionally, on everybody, the whole family,” his father, Victor Rossi, said.
“He did not complain,” Victor Rossi added. “He just went with the flow and did what he had to do.”
Jase Rossi could have another happy ceremony coming next month at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. He needs a lumbar puncture to make sure the cancer is gone. Then Jase Rossi could ring the bell, signifying the end of his active treatment.
“I’m thankful because he is young, they’re so resilient,” Yeffet said. “They don’t realize how sick they are. That’s huge. It definitely helps him in his recovery.”