By Raiza Giorgi
The baseball team at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School decided they wanted to do something for Jim Usher, who has been fighting pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer and underwent a liver transplant last year at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Usher is the father of baseball team member Ethan Usher and softball team member Maggie Usher.
“He fought so hard and it was very hard before the transplant. Jim still supported his kids, and his family showed great faith and strength of character during his battle,” said Coach Warren Dickey.
The baseball team decided to sell pink wristbands to help support Usher, but instead of taking the $900 that they raised, he donated it to the 17 Strong Foundation, a nonprofit group that sends young adults with life-threatening illnesses on a “victory trip” of their choice.
17 Strong was created by the family of Ryan Teixeira of Arroyo Grande, who died in March from acute myeloid leukemia. He was known as a great baseball player who dreamed of playing in the big leagues. However, just after signing his baseball scholarship with Colorado Mesa University, he discovered the cancer and had to begin treatments.
After battling and overcoming a large tumor in his leg in 2015, Teixeira officially started his college baseball career in January 2016. Later that year he started not feeling well and he found out he had leukemia, which was a side effect of the treatment for the sarcoma. He was flown back to UCLA Medical Center and had to have more treatments and a bone marrow transplant.
He decided he wanted to encourage and inspire others, and so 17 Strong was born.
Teixeira was ecstatic when Justin Turner, third baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, visited him and participated in the “17 Strong Whipped Cream Challenge,” which began July 2 and has made its way around San Luis Obispo County, the country, and even internationally. It’s also been seen across Major League Baseball.
“Ryan was an unbelievable competitor on the field and proved also to be one as he fought cancer. The baseball community is pretty tight here on the Central Coast and we honor his memory. The donation is just a small way this team could help out a bigger cause,” Dickey said.
The coach added that he is very proud of his team and the way the players saw a need to help others.
The victory trips are designed for young adults who are recovering from a catastrophic disease who might not qualify for other programs such as the Make a Wish Foundation. The trips range from theme park visits to cruises, concert or travel within the United States.
For more information on the foundation, log onto www.seventeenstrong.org.