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St. Rita to honor late ballplayer, a pediatric brain cancer victim

St. RitHigh School's baseball team will wear gray uniforms for Saturday's game against Mount Carmel honor former player John McNicholas

St. Rita High School's baseball team will wear gray uniforms for Saturday's game against Mount Carmel to honor former player John McNicholas, who died of brain cancer in January 2011. | Supplied photo

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Updated: June 17, 2014 2:43PM



John McNicholas was 15 when, just a short while after making the freshman baseball team at St. Rita High School in Chicago, he was diagnosed with a high-grade brain tumor.

Nine months later, John died from the cancer.

His fondness for the game is the inspiration for a tribute this weekend by St. Rita’s baseball team, which will wear gray uniforms to help raise awareness about pediatric brain cancer.

“He loved baseball since he was a little guy, from T-ball on,” said Amy McNicholas, John’s mother and a board member for the Live Like John Foundation.

On April 30, the Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared May 16 to be “Go Gray in May Day” in Chicago. May is National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and organizations, including the Live Like John Foundation, are encouraging people to wear gray.

St. Rita plays Mount Carmel High School for the Catholic League championship on Saturday. St. Rita will wear gray uniforms, all with John’s No. 10 and the letters LLJ, for Live Like John, on the backs.

Pediatric brain cancer is diagnosed in about 4,000 children annually and hasn’t seen as many breakthroughs in treatment as other diseases have, Amy McNicholas said.

“There has not been any advancement in treatment in 30 years,” she said. Radiation has been shown to help but that can carry risks, she said.

John died from the cancer just nine months after receiving the diagnosis in 2010.

“We were devastated but amazed at the lack of funding for these kinds of tumors,” Amy McNicholas said.

And so the Live Like John Foundation works to raise awareness and money for research. It was started three years ago.

The idea to wear gray baseball jerseys came after watching the McNicholas family get recognized by the Chicago City Council, said Mike Zunica, head baseball coach and athletic director at St. Rita.

Zunica hopes the wearing of the gray jerseys becomes an annual event to keep John’s memory and love for the game alive.

“He was going to be a great baseball player for us,” he said.

Funds are being raised to build a locker room in John’s name, Zunica said. The school already has raised about half of the $200,000 that it set as a goal.

Saturday’s Catholic League championship game begins at 11 a.m. at St. Rita, 7740 S. Western Ave.

For more information about the Live Like John Foundation, visit livelikejohn.org.



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