Liam McGuire, 7, was the smallest member of the Shoreham-Wading River boys varsity lacrosse team on the field Thursday, but he garnered all of the applause.
When the honorary team captain walked across the field at the opening ceremony of the third-annual Lax Out Cancer charity lacrosse game, all eyes were on the shy boy who was swimming in a special edition pink jersey.
The ceremony, which preceded the boys lacrosse game against Huntington, was in honor of McGuire, who was diagnosed with chromosomal leukemia in January, and Kaitlyn Suarez, a senior at Shoreham-Wading River High School, who was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma during her freshman year and is currently being treated for her second recurrence of the disease.
On Saturday, Rotanz and the entire lacrosse team visited McGuire at home, which is when he was named honorary captain and given a jersey. McGuire also called the coin toss for Thursday's game, in which the players from Shoreham-Wading River wore pink Lax Out Cancer jerseys in lieu of normal uniforms.
Proceeds from the game would go to both families to help ease the pain of mounting medical bills, said lacrosse coach Tom Rotanz. The event raised $14,000 last year, he said, and this year's goal was $20,000.
Though Suarez could not walk the field with the team, she did make a surprise appearance. Because Suarez' immune system is so weak during her chemotherapy treatments, she has to avoid contact with other people, said her father, Joseph Suarez.
But not wanting to disappoint her supporters, Suarez - in a medical mask and the pink jersey - was driven down to the field and got out of the car at the 50-yard-line to wave to the crowd and bump fists with McGuire.
Both Matthew McGuire and Joseph Suarez said they were overwhelmed by and grateful for the community's support.
"The reality is everyone and anyone can be touched by cancer," said Joseph Suarez. "It doesn't make it any easier when someone might be in their adulthood and have to endure such a painful thing, when it's a child, it touches those that have children and even those that don't because it is a very difficult process."