The trip last summer to California was supposed to be a showcase to demonstrate baseball skills, but it turned into something much more for a Lee’s Summit teen.
Alex Lange, an 18-year-old senior at Lee’s Summit West High School, was part of a traveling squad of all-star baseball players that represented the Chicago White Sox Area Code team in a high-school level showcase last August in Long Beach.
Baseball was the draw, but for Lange the trip was life-changing. During a period of down time one of Lange’s baseball coaches suggested that the players take part in a community service project aimed at bringing joy to the lives of young children stricken with cancer.
Lange, who will play baseball in college on scholarship at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, struck up a friendship with an 7-year-old cancer patient that morphed into something more once Lange returned home.
“I was hanging out with this little kid with cancer and it just touched me,” Lange said after classes ended March 26. “I was with him and we were hanging out – he actually came back the next day and we did whatever he wanted to do. We ran the bases, hit balls, hung out, watched the game. That really touched me. That was a really neat experience.
“Here’s a kid battling for his life and he has a smile on his face. He was just happy to be around and we’re over there getting upset about a game. It gives you a new perspective on life and what’s important. It was really cool to be around him. He taught me a lot.”
After returning home Lange took that lesson and became actively involved in helping spread the message of NEGU, or Never Ever Give Up, for the Jessie Rees Foundation. In fact, Lange got fellow athletes at West involved to the point where this past fall during the Titans’ homecoming football game, West announced its first ever Homecoming Princess in addition to King and Queen.
The Princess was Lexi Wilson, a young Lee’s Summit girl who herself is battling cancer and an NEGU participant.
“Alex has taken on the NEGU foundation with love and passion in his heart,” said Debbie Katzfey, activities director at Lee’s Summit West. “He is so kind and caring to each and every child he meets through this foundation and experience. He works so very hard to make sure that each child with cancer or any disease feels happy and loved. He is an amazing young man.”
“It’s just one of those things where you realize that what you’re doing is such a small thing compared to what they are going through,” Lange added. “Everything in your life that you think is so bad and so terrible, you can look at it and say, ‘oh hey, it’s really not that bad if this kid is fighting for his life and has a smile on his face.’”
Lange’s involvement with NEGU has garnered him a “Compassionate Kid” award from the California-based organization. Lange is in Newport Beach, Calif. taking part in the foundation’s third annual gala March 29 at the Marriott Hotel and Spa. The gala is a fund-raising event in which proceeds go toward providing resources and support to more than 40,000 children battling cancer across the U.S. in 2014.
The program includes dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and highlighted honors. Along with “Courageous Kid” honors, Lange will be honored for his work in encouraging others and spreading the message of NEGU and the Jessie Rees Foundation.
“It’s a real humbling experience to be a part of it,” Lange said of attending the gala.
The inception of NEGU is due to Rees, a 12-year-old girl who fought two inoperable brain tumors for ten months before losing her fight Jan. 5, 2012. Rees left behind a simple wish: “Please encourage every kid fighting cancer to Never Ever Give Up.”
Although he is a pitcher, judging by the nationwide award presented to him by NEGU, Lange has hit one out the park for young, cancer-stricken children.