The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.

Western Courier

Softball honors a special fan

Reid Brewer throws the first pitch for the Leathernecks Saturday.

Reid Brewer throws the first pitch for the Leathernecks Saturday.

Campbell Atkins

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Western Illinois softball teamed up with athletics and the University’s Love Your Melon Campus Crew to make Saturday’s double-header an afternoon to remember for 6-year-old Reid Brewer.

Brewer is fighting neuroblastoma for the second time in his short life. He was diagnosed with the cancer for the first time in March of 2015 and given just months to live. He was forced to undergo aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant and multiple surgeries before he was declared free of the disease. The cancer returned to Brewer just three months later.

But on Saturday, the fans at Mary Ellen McKee Stadium witnessed Reid sport a brand new Western softball jersey and run onto the field with the players. He was greeted by a deafening applause and dubbed the day’s “strongest Leatherneck” by the public address announcer as he tossed the game’s first pitch.

“He’s in between treatments right now,” said Reid’s grandmother Peggy Bowen, who works in Western’s admissions office. “This gives him a chance to just run around and be a kid. He doesn’t get to do that a lot, so he makes the most of it when he does.”

Young Brewer was especially fond of his friends from Western’s chapter of Love Your Melon Campus Crew. The national organization raises money for children with cancer by selling specialized beanie hats. Each time one of the hats is purchased, another is donated to a child with cancer.

“We have been able to pick a child in an area and make it our goal to make his day,” said Madeleine Stolinski, the captain of Western’s Love Your Melon Crew. “We partnered with the softball team this time to put together a community event and help Reid with his fight.”

For the duration of the games, the Crew sold T-shirts and bracelets on top of their traditional beanies in order to raise money. They also spent time enjoying Reid’s company and spending time with him.

“I can’t even describe how fulfilling this all is,” Stolinski said. “It’s really incredible just to see how happy of a kid he is when you consider what he’s going through.”

Stolinski and the Crew worked closely with Western Illinois alumna Karissa Kouchis and athletic communications to put the event together. Everyone involved in the event’s organization was overwhelmed by the support they received.

“Love Your Melon had the opportunity to host something special for Reid,” Kouchis said. “We just started talking and thought we could do something at a softball game. The ideas really started flowing from there and we decided to pull out all of the stops. We had a promo video that went viral, and this really exploded in the community.”

The hard workers who wanted to make this a special day for Reid could also not say enough about Western Illinois head softball coach Holly Van Vlymen and her entire team. The players welcomed Reid as a teammate and used that fire to capture a 1-0 shutout victory in the first game.

“This event is just an example of the type of leadership (Van Vlymen) gives to her girls,” Kouchis said. “She makes sure they give back to the community by being a part of events like this. She does an amazing job of molding her student-athletes on and off the field.”

Twitter: @CampbellAtkins4

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Softball honors a special fan