PHOENIX – A 368-mile round-trip car ride awaits Bruce Clark-Frye each week to get treatment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital – the place his parents say is their best hope for their child to one day be cancer-free.
The 6-year-old from Yuma was diagnosed with leukemia just over a year ago. He was one of 307 patients diagnosed with cancer at Phoenix Children’s in 2015.
His family’s life changed from that moment forward.
“We drive so far every week, that absolutely affects what we can do for fun, what we can afford,” said Christine Frye, Bruce’s mother. “Cancer kind of is our life.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and his wife, Amy, are trying to make life easier for children like Bruce through Goldy’s Fund 4 Kids.
It started in 2013 when the couple volunteered to give out coffee and teddy bears at the hospital. The Goldschmidts then began to bring pictures, sign autographs and host small fundraisers.
“I think it helps keep things in perspective,” said Goldschmidt, a four-time All-Star with the Diamondbacks. “I go over there and hang out for a few minutes and have fun with them and distract them from what they’re going through.”
For the last three years, the Goldschmidts have presented a check to the hospital for $100,000 with the help of Fox Sports Arizona’s Annual Television Broadcast Fundraiser. This year’s check was presented Sept. 17, a day after the annual broadcast fundraiser, at the D-Backs Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Game.
It was for more than double the amount of previous years — $250,000.
The funds can make all the difference for a family when a doctor says the four words nobody wants to hear: Your child has cancer. With help of the foundation, Bruce and his family are making the best of the situation.
Last September, Christine Frye noticed her youngest child was not doing well and had multiple infections. The Yuma Regional Medical center recognized there was a problem, but couldn’t diagnose it. Frye was given a choice of visiting a hospital in Tucson or Phoenix, and chose the latter because PCH specializes in pediatric care.
“The entire hospital staff have become our family, like these are people that I absolutely trust with my child’s life, without a doubt,” Frye said.
Kim Froehle, a child-life specialist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital has been a part of the planning process for the D-backs Go Gold Game since the initial one in 2014 and has watched it grow.
“Every time has been even more amazing,” she said. “To see all the fans really just support these kids, when I know what they go through throughout the week, and to see that they’re normal little kids out there running and smiling and laughing makes you pretty happy.”
It was a night about more than baseball. The stadium was adorned in gold T-shirts and awareness ribbons. Doctors and nurses held up cardboard signs along the first and third baseline spelling out “Hope lives here” during pregame ceremonies.
Froehle looked into the eyes of her patients and smiled.
“They get to forget about being sick,” Froehle said. “I don’t think it’s really about cancer, especially tonight.”
Nine patients had the chance to join the team on the field for player introductions, including Bruce.
“I was kinda nervous. This is my first time to the D-backs game,” the 6-year-old said. “It felt great to get my ball autographed and it was really, super fun.”
It may have been Bruce’s first game, but he had already been introduced to Goldschmidt.
Their initial meeting was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at the hospital. His mother described her son being nothing short of star-struck.
“When Paul said he was a baseball player, Bruce gasped and said, ‘You’re a baseball player?’ He was so excited because it was such a big deal for him,” Frye said. “The idea that these people are kids you see on TV and now you get to meet them in real life.”
Little did Bruce know that he motivates the Diamondbacks star.
“They end up inspiring me to play harder out there and to try to find a way to get a win because I know they’re watching our games and fighting hard to get healthy at the hospital,” Goldschmidt said. “They’re in my thoughts. They’re in my prayers daily.”