REGGIE HAYES: Huntington University baseball team to ‘adopt’ 2-year-old Fort Wayne cancer patient Teddy Nix

Teddy Nix (Courtesy photo)
Tyler Nix, Stephanie Lineback and son Teddy Nix. (Courtesy photo)
Tyler Nix and his son, Teddy. (Courtesy photo)

Teddy Nix is a rambunctious toddler, just like most 2-year-olds.

“He’s going to crawl on top of your head or use you as a swing set,” his father Tyler Nix said. “He’s just a little sweetheart.”

The difference for Teddy lies in the battle he’s had since birth. He has been fighting bilateral retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eyes which has produced an emotional, stressful time of life for parents Tyler Nix and Stephanie Lineback of Fort Wayne. Good news came last week when doctors told his parents he is cancer-free. Teddy’s right eye remains damaged, but his left eye is doing well, Tyler said.

Adding to that positive turn of events: Teddy Nix is about to gain two dozen big brothers.

Teddy will be “adopted” next Thursday by the Huntington University baseball team as part of the national Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.

“There’s a story HBO did about the Friends of Jaclyn program,” Huntington coach Mike Frame said. “The players took a look at that, and they were all for this.”

The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation was started after a then 9-year-old girl, Jaclyn Murphy, was “adopted” by the Northwestern University lacrosse team when Jaclyn was suffering from a brain tumor. She recovered and has gone on earn a degree and coach lacrosse as an adult. The foundation, established by her family, pairs children with brain tumors and other forms of cancer with sports teams.

Hundreds of college teams have taken part, including the Fort Wayne Mastodons women’s softball team.

Financial needs for Teddy Nix’s medical bills and other issues have been helped along the way by fundraisers from the local Summit City Sluggers youth baseball organization. Sluggers founder Mark DeLaGarza brought Teddy’s plight to the attention of Friends of Jaclyn development director Tony Vittorio. Vittorio retired after 18 years as baseball coach at the University of Dayton. He also coached IPFW baseball from 1997-99.

Tyler Nix is a former player with the Sluggers.

“Me and Mark go way back, and he’s always got some kind of cool new thing,” Tyler Nix said. “He presented it to me to see if we wanted to be part of it, and we looked at it and said why not?”

The “adoption” will take place next Thursday as the Huntington team meets Teddy Nix for the first time in person.

Typically, children spend time with the team and get to know the players and coaches. The team then offers friendship and encouragement to the child and his or her parents.

“The team’s job is to enhance the quality of life for the child and his family,” Vittorio said. “But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that child is going to enhance the quality of life for each and every member of the Huntington University baseball program.”

“It sounds fantastic,” Tyler Nix said. “We’ll find out more about it that day.”

Teddy Nix will continue to be monitored to make sure cancer doesn’t return to his right eye, Tyler Nix said.

“If it does come back, we would have to do more treatment and possibly remove the eye,” Tyler Nix said. “After a while, there would be a risk of it spreading to the brain.”

Huntington’s baseball team regularly seeks avenues to go beyond the field as part of the school’s Christian emphasis.

“We’re always looking for ways to help out in the community,” Frame said. “Sometimes it’s something formally organized like this, sometimes it’s four or five guys helping an elderly person move a piano or something. …Many of our players come here with a softened heart already to be involved in something like this.”

When they meet rambunctious Teddy Nix, they may have a new favorite teammate.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.


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