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New campaign involves baseball players in breast cancer fight

“Hit A Homerun For Mom” is a new campaign aimed at Mother’s Day that gets high school baseball players involved in the fight against breast cancer, organizers said Friday.

The program, which involved players at nine Long Island high schools this past week, was kicked off with the hope of it becoming an annual event, said officials at the SASS Foundation for Medical Research in Roslyn, which organized the program.

A baseball game was played at each school in honor of Mother’s Day.

Players received printed material to take home to their mothers. The medical information encourages screening mammography and emphasizes the importance of early breast-cancer detection.

They also received complimentary pink wristbands and complimentary baseballs with pink stitching from Rawlings, maker of official Major League baseballs.

The campaign is the brainchild of Dr. Francis Arena of the SASS Foundation, a breast cancer specialist who also is medical director of NYU Langone Arena Oncology in Lake Success.

Arena said the idea of having players encourage screening came to him when he realized that teens have played a strong role in annual SASS Foundation events for years.

The nonprofit organization sponsors one of the largest and longest-running annual breast cancer conferences on Long Island, held each October for more than 20 years. Teenagers help with setting up display tables, for example, and directing conference-goers to seminars.

“Every year, we do our breast cancer education day and each time we have high school students volunteering, and they are such an inspiration to us,” Arena said. “And my son, who plays baseball for the Herricks High School baseball team has watched me working so hard for so many years and said, ‘I wish I could help.’ ”

The doctor said he reached out to Rawlings and the company not only wanted to pitch in, but they were able to produce regulation baseballs with pink stitching.

Arena said he would like the “Hit A Homerun For Mom” games to be played Island-wide next year and throughout New York in the future.

Joan Ambrosino, education administrator at SASS, said it has been heartening to see young athletes enthusiastic about spreading the word about early detection.

“I was at a game yesterday and they held the balls up,” Ambrosino said of a symbolic salute to fight breast cancer. “Kids are the best ambassadors to share information about staying healthy, and this is a special Mother’s Day gift for their moms.”

Baseball teams that participated this past week were those at Chaminade High School in Mineola, Herricks High School, Locust Valley High School, Long Beach High School, Mineola High School, New Hyde Park Memorial High School, Roslyn High School, St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset and The Wheatley School in Old Westbury.

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