When the East Side Hurricanes, a traveling recreation team from east Cobb, embarked July 17 on a journey to the Dizzy Dean 8U World Series in Baseball, the team had one priority: bringing home a trophy.
That was quickly put on the backburner when the team met its newest honorary member, a boy the same age fighting stage-three brain cancer named Franklin Eason.
Franklin is from McLouth, Kan., a town of 2,800 people about 40 miles from Kansas City, but the 12 boys on the team didn’t see their differences, the scar on the back of his head from his last surgery or that the lower half of his head had been shaved, said Amy Urowsky, whose son, Tyler, plays on the team. They saw a friend.
“No one saw that, and they just saw a kid who wanted to play with him,” Urowsky said.
Franklin was staying in the same hotel in Memphis, Tenn., about 15 miles away from the tournament in Mississippi, awaiting tests and the possibility for surgery at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Franklin’s mother, Linda, learned of the severity of his cancer just 10 days before.
Franklin would spend the week with his newest friends, taking his mind off what was to come. While the team bonded with him, their parents would be reminded to be grateful for what they have.
“We’re tainted and they’re not,” Urowsky said.
The meeting wasn’t an accident, Dawn Chatham says.
“We knew that his grandparents named him ‘Hurricane’ when he was younger and that just gave us all goosebumps,” said Chatham, whose son Kyle plays for the Hurricanes. “We knew that it wasn’t just a chance meeting. It was meant to be.”
The boys saw Franklin as a member of their team and gave him a jersey signed by each player. Facing the possibility of surgery the next day to remove the tumor on his brain stem, Franklin’s mind wasn’t with his health. It was on the team’s game.
“He stood up in front of everybody in the team room and he said, ‘We just want to thank you for being our friend,’” Chatham said. “Here’s a boy saying, ‘You can do this,’ and the next day he went to get his pre-work, tests and stuff.”
Parents of the team members collected money and gave Franklin’s mother $1,100 toward medical expenses. He became the team’s inspiration, and they chanted his name throughout the game.
“Under the lights, us in tears and things like that, we knew that Franklin was getting ready for surgery,” Chatham said.
Urowsky faced a similar situation when her 4-month-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a severe heart condition and needed a transplant. It became so grave she had to find a burial plot.
Now, he’s recovering and taking on sports like baseball and lacrosse. She says it’s easy for parents to become caught up in the excitement and competitiveness of their children’s sports, but the trip brought them back down to earth and is an experience the team won’t forget.
“I think it makes them see the human element, the fragility of life and the importance of living your life on a daily basis and to be grateful and appreciative for what you have,” Chatham said. “And in the same breath making sure you take care of others.”
Franklin is recovering from his surgery and the team plans to stay in touch.
“He’s a life-long Hurricane,” Chatham said.