April 10, 2006
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There are many important dates which will always be remembered throughout history and in the world of sports. No date will be more important to Jacksonville University junior second baseman Logan James and his family, than October 27, 2005.
On this particular date, Logan lost his No. 1 fan to a painful disease. His grandfather, Herb Snellen, who had followed closely as he continued his baseball career at JU, finally lost his battle with cancer and Logan fell asleep with an empty heart.
"He was my biggest supporter out of anyone in my family," Logan said. "It didn't even matter if I had gone 0-for-5 with four errors; he still believed I was the best player that he had ever seen."
But out of tragedy, an idea came to Logan as he recalled the last painful weeks of his grandfather's life. Among the memories that stuck with him the most, as he slept, was the remarkable kindness and care in which Herb was given by the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida to ease his suffering.
"Colon cancer is one of the worst ways to go and they did everything they could to make sure he was as comfortable as possible," said James. "As his symptoms and the pain could no longer be reasonably managed at home, he opted for in-patient care at the Earl B. Hadlow Center for Caring during his last four days. In providing these services, he was able to live his last days on his own terms. It really meant a lot to me and my family and I wanted to find a way to repay that kindness."
The Community Hospice is a non-profit, community-based organization which was founded in 1979 as the first hospice in Northeast Florida. The organization, which served 5,354 patients last year alone, has 700 employees and 1,100 volunteers which care for 1,000 patients daily.
"Community Hospice's mission is to improve the quality of life for patients and families and be the compassionate guide for end-of-life care in the community," said Susan Ponder-Stansel, president and CEO of Community Hospice. "That means we help patients manage pain and symptoms more comfortably, we help lighten the care-giver's burdens, and we guide and support families as they make difficult decisions."
Two years ago, tragedy first struck the James family as Herb was diagnosed with colon cancer and immediately had the affected area removed with surgery. In the aftermath of the surgery, no traces of the disease were found and the procedure was deemed a success.
As life went back to normal, a random blood test in January of 2005 revealed the worst was yet to come. The colon cancer in Herb's body had resurfaced, this time in his lungs. He immediately began chemotherapy to battle the disease, but there was no hope of a full recovery. Instead, the treatment allowed Herb to live long enough to reach his 59th wedding anniversary, the only goal he established for himself before succumbing to the disease.
"Herb and I enjoyed a 59-year love affair when a young man returning from World War II saw beauty and hope again on a blind date arranged by his cousin," said Rose Snellen, Herb's wife and Logan's grandmother. "We counted our blessings over the years, but we never counted on cancer. Herb's last wish to celebrate our 59th wedding anniversary was granted and our last anniversary was a sweet jubilee that I will cherish for all times. Even now, love is the tie that keeps my heart from breaking."
Logan began the process by seeking the advice of his parents and JU athletic director Alan Verlander on how he could raise donations and where it should go. At first, he thought of giving to the American Cancer Society, but after careful thought, Logan decided to give back to the source of the kindness.
"Once I talked with my parents and Alan, I realized the hospice was where the donations should go," Logan said. "I spoke with donor relations representative, Susan Helander, once on the phone and we came up with a very simple concept."
The idea, was to get donations for every hit he recorded during the 2006 season, and then give that money back to the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. Thus, "Hits for Hospice" was born.
"It's almost like a walk-a-thon, but instead, I'm doing it through the sport he loved to watch me play," Logan said. "This is a way to pay back the hospice center while also doing something in honor of my grandparents."
A week before the Dolphin baseball season started, Logan began the process by typing up a form letter through email and then changing the header for each email. At first, he sent emails to family, friends and business connections through his mother. With each day, Logan sends five emails per night while also balancing school, practice and games. Thus far, he has raised the total number of donors to 30 and has recorded 27 hits this year. With two months left in the season, he is still looking for more people willing to give to a personal cause.
"I always wondered why people have done things like this and now that my grandfather has passed, I understand," said James. "I'm still working hard to find more donors and I'm doing my best to perform on the field."
Along with helping Logan deal with the passing of his biggest supporter, his family has found something to rally around in a time of mourning.
"Logan's idea to create "Hits for Hospice" overwhelmed our entire family," said Sally James, Herb's daughter and Logan's mother. "Following dad's death, Logan said he was awake all that night thinking about how best to honor his grandfather and as the idea evolved in his mind, he felt at peace. "Hits for Hospice" has helped us all deal with the grief and loss.
"Logan's dedication to make this happen, speaks volumes about his kindheartedness and his immense love of his grandfather. I know my dad was standing at home plate with Logan during each at-bat this season."