MONROE — Christina Foley was a normal sports mom — attending her kids’ games and taking pictures. Well, a lot of pictures.
“I’m a photographer mom, I’m always taking pictures of the kids,” Foley said.
After being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017, she went through the rigamoral. Her immune system was so depleted she could barely do much of anything. She had to pause from her position as a teacher’s aide at Parkside Elementary School in Monroe. Her recovery from surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and a battle with Clostridium difficile (C. diff) kept her even further from the sidelines than she ever wanted to be, but nothing could keep her from going.
“I couldn’t do it anymore, I was just so tired, but I was still able to go to the games and watch them. My immune system was so bad, but I could be there,” she said.
Foley picked up a following on social media for a blog she kept during her recovery. One day she left out a submission she had written for herself but when her son saw it he convinced her to share it with the world.
I wanted to pay it forward. I thought, how could I incorporate something that I love and that I fought for and help somebody.Christina Foley
“I didn’t really understand cancer and what that meant,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand. I started the blog to educate people on cancer and how it affects the family and you physically.”
As she’s recovered — she’s now one year into remission — she wanted to find a way to give back to her community and help others.
“People wanted to help. They would send me gift cards and food cards. The school put together something where they would send me something on a regular basis to keep my morale up. It helped me with my soul,” she said. “I wanted to do the same thing — I wanted to pay it forward. I thought, how could I incorporate something that I love and that I fought for and help somebody.”
Then the idea came to her — a baseball game to raise money.
If you go ...
Info on the Green County vs. Lafayette County All-Star All-Cancer Baseball Game:
● July 7, 10 a.m., MHS Baseball Field
● Rain date July 14
● Free Admission
● Umps volunteering: Jeff Newcomer, Chad Pfund
● Announcers: Toby Golembiewski, Matt Brukwicki
● Star Spangled Banner: Cancer-survivor Renee Setterstrom
● Food, T-Shirts, Justice for a Cure will bring other merchandise
● Chance to win prizes: Mallards tickets, Beloit Snappers basket (Snappy coming), other baskets
● Signup Genie for volunteers that want to join and help
“I came up with this idea while sitting in my house. I had C. Diff (Clostridium difficile), so I got super sick and was stuck. I couldn’t cook and I had to stay away from other people, which was hard. But I fought to get to games, and baseball was one I could go to. I have watched them play baseball for years and I love it,” Foley said. “I came up with the idea to play one baseball game and raise money to help people that are going through what I went through.”
The more the fundraiser took hold in her brain, the more she strived to make it happen. But obstacles and red tape stood in her way.
“Originally, I thought I could do this on my own — it’s just one fundraiser. The high school loved it. I barely even got it out and they were like, ‘Yep,’” she said. “But then it became clear that I needed to be a non-profit, and then I started researching being a non-profit and that is absolutely expensive, which blows my mind — you’re a non-profit, how is this so expensive? I couldn’t do that. I was going to quit. I was in tears because I wanted to do this, but my husband said to reach out, so I did.”
Green County All-Stars Roster
Foley had been attending a support group through Justice for a Cure, a group that educates, brings awareness, and supports cancer survivors, and decided that she was going to pitch the idea to Joan Kamholz, the founder and president. Kamholz smiled as Foley pitched the idea, and knew that Justice for a Cure would make sure everything went off without a hitch.
“When she brought this and said it’s going to be kids playing and it’s all about cancer, I just sat there because it was slam dunk. I knew instantly we were going to help her,” Kamholz said. “Or maybe not a slam dunk — a home run.
“Even before I went to my board, I told her we were going to do this. Then I went to my board and told them ‘this is what we’re doing.’”
With a legitimate non-profit now at the help, Foley’s idea was able to take off.
“We’re raising funds to help people in our community. And Justice for a Cure is giving me that opportunity to make this happen through a non-profit. We’re partnering together, making an account so when we see a need we can reach out and help,” Foley said.
Green County Roster
Monroe: Trevor Meier, Jared Cline Hayden Zahradka, Colin Foley, Conner Foley
Brodhead-Juda: Quinton Kammerer, Quinton Harris, Payton Johnson, Jacob Miller
Monticello-Albany: Josh Dahl, Corbin Kelley, Andy Eyler, Cole Femrite
Coaches: Eric Losenegger (Monroe), Rich Wachholz (Monticello-Albany), Scott Smice (Monticello-Albany)
The game is set for 10 a.m. July 7 at the Monroe High School baseball field, with a backup rain date for July 14. The game will feature 26 area varsity and junior varsity players, making up two teams — a Green County all-star squad vs. a Lafayette County all-star team. Coaches, umpires and announcers are all volunteering, and cancer survivor Renee Setterstrom will sing the national anthem.
Foley said she asked all the players to name a person that they will play in honor of, and those names will be announced for every at-bat.
“I even went to my kids and asked ‘Who are you playing for?’ expecting one to at least say me,” said Foley, who was surprised at first when her son mentioned her own father. “I had forgotten my dad had prostate cancer, but he said he wanted to play for his grandpa.”
Foley’s eighth-grade daughter, Addison, is even on board and will help out.
“I like it. I’m going to be the photographer,” said Addison, who her mom says ‘is a girl with few words.’
Lafayette County All-Stars Roster
There will be baskets raffled, including one from the Beloit Snappers, as well as tickets to a Madison Mallards game. Admission is free and Snappy, the Beloit Snappers mascot, is set to make an appearance. A string of sponsors has also chipped in to make the day run seamlessly, including Colony Brands, Kwik Trip, Woodford State Bank and Sugar River Bank. The event even received a $1,000 anonymous donation in early June.
“The community has just come forward to help us in big ways,” Kamholz said. “I was tickled to be a part of this and help. It’s the local community that just comes out and has poured their heart and soul into this, and it’s real important that we keep doing what we can at this level. Getting the kids involved, so many have been touched by it in one way or another.”
Lafayette County Roster
Argyle: Mitch Flannery, Jakob Ploessl
Black Hawk: Brandon Schiferl, Jayden Stietz, Rece Shelton
Darlington: Nick Andrae, Preston Banfield
Pecatonica: Colton Schraepfer, Carter Ruegsegger, Everett Johnson, Lane Busser
Shullsburg-Benton: Brooks Tiedeman, Cade Ruehle
Coaches: Brad Solberg (Darlington), Jeff Solberg (Argyle), Jim Strommen (Pecatonica)
Foley said that even though this is the first year of the event, her hopes are high with plans to hold it again — and even expanding if possible.
“This is something we want to continue moving forward. This is the first year — one game. We want to do this right,” Foley said. “Other teams came forward and I had to shut it down, but I said I’d let them know for next year — maybe a morning game and an afternoon game.”
Kamholz said an annual fundraiser with Bartles Tap on Monroe’s Square has brought in the most money in each of the last three years for Justice for a Cure. “The community here in Monroe has just been fabulous,” she said.
Foley said the biggest thing she wants people to take away from her journey — and that of so many others — is to be your own advocate with your doctor when symptoms aren’t addressed.
I was tickled to be a part of this and help. It’s the local community that just comes out and has poured their heart and soul into this, and it’s real important that we keep doing what we can at this level. Getting the kids involved, so many have been touched by it in one way or another.Joan Kamholz, Justice for a Cure
“That knowledge of knowing the signs and advocating for yourself … I’m fighting for people to tell them ‘No. You give me a colonoscopy, or you will check scans for my breasts, or these headaches are ridiculous, let’s check more into it.’ Let’s stop letting insurance companies dictate what the doctors can do,” she said.
Kamholz brings the same message to students with her foundation.
“When we talk to the kids at Justice for a Cure, that’s one of the things we talk about — you know your body better than anybody else. If you’re telling a doctor what’s wrong and they say no, you need to talk to your doctor again. If your doctor still says no, you need to find another doctor that will listen to you,” Kamholz said.