By Jeff Jones
Twitter – @jmjones
ST. LOUIS — When an event is called “An Evening With the Cardinals,” it’s hard to imagine anyone in the room receiving a warmer reception than two gentlemen who have earned the red jackets distributed to members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
And yet, when eight-year-old Rhyan Loos and her family scaled the steps to the stage at the Union Station Hotel on Saturday night, the room erupted into an ovation longer and more raucous than any other it would see that evening.
Loos is a survivor of neuroblastoma, and she and her family have been beneficiaries of the services provided by The National Children’s Cancer Society. Saturday’s gathering was the 7th annual Cardinal-themed benefit for NCCS, and it was an outrageous success in terms of both rallying the spirit of the city and in raising vital funds to offer support in the fight against childhood cancer.
Chris Carpenter and Jim Edmonds were the Cardinal Hall of Famers who were present, and they regaled the crowd with war stories and warm jokes while being prodded by the master of ceremonies, Dan McLaughlin.
Before Carpenter and Edmonds even stepped onto the stage, McLaughlin assisted in raising over $100,000 from the podium in a matter of mere minutes. That level of commitment from the crowd is what helps to make the event a success and what allows families like the Looses to receive the support they need.
NCCS President and CEO Mark Stolze also addressed the crowd on Saturday, and before doing so, he informed Scoops that the Loos family was able to benefit from 36 round trip flights from St. Louis to New York City in order to continue Rhyan’s care. The organization’s motto, according to Stolze and NCCS Vice President of Marketing Lori Millner, is that, “if a child can’t get there, the treatment might as well not exist.”
Saturday’s event was sold out and, according to Stolze and Millner, was buoyed by the support of people who regularly attend every year. NCCS doesn’t contribute to any medical research; instead, they focus on providing the necessary behind the scenes support to allow for treatment to occur. The organization works with hospital social workers across the country to screen potential clients and guarantee they’re doing what they can to enhance the chance each child has for survival.
Following an emotional video presentation which highlighted the challenges that childhood cancer patients face while fighting their battles, McLaughlin introduced Carpenter and Edmonds with displays of some of their career highlights and then spoke with them about their experiences in St. Louis and as Cardinals.
Both players now serve as part-time in-uniform instructors on the major league staff, and in that capacity, they contribute a great deal to the preparedness of the players on the current roster. Carpenter in particular spoke to his own battles with anxiety as a young player and the ways in which he learned to channel those thoughts into positivity. Edmonds spoke enthusiastically about helping young and talented players round out all corners of their games. He seemed particularly excited about working with Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader; no surprise given that Bader now patrols the same centerfield where Edmonds once stood.
Each legend also recounted some of their career highlights with laughter and introspection. Edmonds’s introduction video included the clip of a remarkable over-the-wall catch in Cincinnati that, it turned out, came with some fortuitous timing.
Edmonds quoted former Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen as asking, in reference to a home run stealing catch the previous night, “how come you never do that for me?” As Edmonds was running back to retrieve the ball in question, he said, in his mind he was thinking “I was just talking about this last night!”
Carpenter also had one of the best received answers of the night when he was asked if he had watched much of Edmonds’s stint as a cast member on The Real Housewives of Orange County. “I expected Jimmy to be on Real Housewives,” he deadpanned, before conceding he had seen just enough of the show to determine that it likely wasn’t his cup of tea.
Edmonds spoke with introspection about his far-too-short amount of time on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Carpenter spoke with pride about his late friend Roy Halladay, recently elected to the same Hall. Each spoke to the preparedness of Tony LaRussa and the similarities they see in Mike Shildt while expressing optimism about the upcoming season.
At the end of the night, however, both players acknowledged that the night wasn’t about them and, indeed, wasn’t really about the organization. It was about children fighting an unfair fight and offering necessary support in any way possible.
Carpenter spoke of returning to St. Louis as a return to home. Edmonds called the city “relentless on giving back.” Each thanked and congratulated the crowd on its generosity and support.
Rhyan Loos is cancer-free and her family was able to cope with one of the most difficult times in their lives because of the support and services offered by the National Children’s Cancer Society. The evening may have been with the Cardinals, but the Cardinals present understood full well who the star truly was.