Sean Reader is still in our thoughts
With September being Child Cancer Awareness Month, I’m remembering the children who have passed away from Cancer/Leukemia that had an impact on my life.
On Opening Day in 2007, the Dodgers presented Sean’s mother and father with seats from Dodger stadium. On the pair of seats is a plate that reads “In Memory of Sean Reader Born 9-18-93, passed 8-14-06 # 1 Dodger Fan “. The seats are located at Field Level, Section 43, Row A, Seat # 5 & 6.”
As the 10th anniversary of the 4+1 game approaches, I and several others will be thinking more of Sean Reader than of the actual game.
I write about Sean because Jay Stalling makes us remember him by running the Sean Fund.
Sean’s Fund works with California Chess League (CYCL) to provide financial aid to those who need it to pay for chess classes and tournaments. Additionally, Sean’s Fund provides for private lessons for children in the Santa Clarita Valley who suffer from cancer and brings chess to the patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles who suffer from cancer and other serious ailments.
Maybe that sounds trivial compared to donating money to the massive money machines who are trying to defeat cancer. Maybe? Maybe not so trivial after you read why Jay does this.
When I send money to the Sean Fund I know exactly what Jay Stalling and his staff will do with that donation. Sean had two passions, the Dodgers, and Chess. Sean wasn’t just some kid who played Chess, Sean was the Cory Seager of his Chess peers, and this is his story. The Sean Fund was created to extend Sean’s passion to those who may not have been fortunate enough due to economic situations to fully learn about the game that has such a beneficial impact on those who play it.
From the day he was diagnosed, Sean, his family, Jay, and his family all expected a long fight, but a happy ending. They had strength, confidence, prayer, the best doctors, the bes tcaregivers , and still it was not enough. It was not to be, just like William; Sean was unable to beat the disease and passed away on Aug 17th 2006.
On Sept 18th with Sean’s birthday approaching, Chan was rightfully depressed. Jay was worried about Chan spending his recently deceased sons birthday alone, so he went over to help him get through the day. I’m just guessing but I think Jay needed to be there just as much as Chan needed him. They would get through this day together and lean on each other for support. They had loved Sean as a father loves his son and as a best man takes that family into his heart. I don’t know what they did that day except for one thing, and that was to watch the Dodger game.
Chan had purchased season seats for his son because aside from Chess, the Dodgers were his biggest passion. Sean loved the Dodgers and coveted the giveaways as young kids do. Besides the bobble heads, his favorite was the Fleece blanket, and this year the Dodgers were doing the fleece blanket on his birthday. When Sean was too sick to go to any more games, Chan had given away all the tickets except for the Sept 18th game. He had hoped that Sean would be healthy enough by then to make the trip for the game. It was not to be for Sean, and Chan still had the unused tickets sitting at home when Jay came over. Neither one could bring themselves to go to the game so they settled in and watched history unfold. It was just a baseball game, but nothing else could have provided the respite that Jay and Chan needed, then the game the Dodgers played. They toasted Nomar rounding the bases and thought of the boy who would have loved that game probably more than anyone else.
Sean Reader passed away from leukemia over tens years ago now on August 14, 2006. He was twelve when he passed away, and the Dodgers started their ThinkCure! campaign one year later. ThinkCure! is now nine years old and still going strong. In July of 2005 Sean was undergoing his 4th round of chemo when a Dodger group consisting of Ethier, Furcal, Martin, and Frank McCourt, visited Children’s Hospital. Sean had been looking forward to this visit for several weeks, as he was the biggest twelve-year-old Dodger fan in the world. Frank met with Sean that day, and I’m sure he made an impression on him. Sean was just weeks away from leaving us as he had fought a valiant battle, but the current knowledge was not going to be enough to save him. Yet, even in his last weeks, all he wanted to talk about was his Dodgers. That could not have been lost on Frank. Frank has referred to Sean in inspirational speeches he has made since then, so we know Frank’s thought about him. How much that played into the Dodgers starting ThinkCure!, I’ll never know, but I expect it helped facilitate the process.
Sean’s family had season tickets and they sat in the first row of the old section, about halfway between the 3rd base and the foul pole. When Sean was able to, they would manage to go to the games. However, if you’ve ever sat in those seats after the stadium’s modifications, you’d know that the new sight lines are tough on short people. It’s also hard to get a good view of the infield if anyone to your right leans forward in their seats. The ushers, however, would always spot Sean, and wave him into the new section, so he could watch the action. These simple gestures meant a lot to Sean and his father. I’m sure the ushers looked forward to the games Sean could attend, and cried silently when they realized he couldn’t make them any longer.
Sean would never leave the hospital after the Dodgers’ visit. He lost the battle with leukemia, and the fourth round of chemo had broken his body down. Still, he watched the games from his hospital bed. Whenever family and friends visited, and saw his body show animation, they knew immediately that something in the game had happened. They would glance up at the TV, and more times than not, a Dodger player would have just hit a home run.
Sean wasn’t just a Dodger fan, he was a brilliant boy. In February 2005, less than two months before his diagnosis, Sean won the title of Western States Chess Champion for the 6th Grade. Three days after he learned he had leukemia, Sean headed for Tennessee where he led his elementary school team to second place standings, in the nation. That’s like being runners-up at the Little League World Series (and Sean being the team’s best player).
And above all, he was a great son and person.
Leukemia is what ended Sean’s and many other children and adults’ lives prematurely. Doctors will say that with their new protocols, the ability to survive now, is better than ever before. The survival rate, however, needs to get better, because people are still dying at a greater rate than is acceptable.
The Dodgers do what they can on a large scale with ThinkCure!, Jay Stalling does what he can on a local level, not to fight cancer but to carry on the memory of one of the victims by helping to keep his passion for Chess alive for others.
Both are doing the good fight.