It has been a tough year for nine-year-old Conner Sides.
The Troup youngster is all too familiar with medical terminology dealing with cancer since he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2016.
Conner was able to focus on playing games over the weekend. His family, including his father Kendall Sides and mother Nikki Hassell also were able to enjoy a weekend of baseball and fun.
Jarrod Wallum, Lee Morris and other board members of the Troup Youth Association helped organize the benefit event. Wallum said 24 teams participated, and because of adverse weather, the tournament will conclude Saturday with the 8-Under and 10-Under championships. Action will start at 8 a.m.
“One thing is that this brings people together,” Wallum said.
Conner was able to throw out the first pitch, and he used a ball designed especially for him to use. Conner also handed out the championship rings designed by Casey McElroy, to the championship team in the 6-Under tournament.
“It’s an awesome deal,” Kendall Sides said of the tournament. Speaking of the Troup community, he added, “These people are some of the best in the world.”
Baseball and softball players from Troup, as well as Whitehouse, Arp, Gilmer, Chandler, Jacksonville, Longview, West Rusk and Alto participated in a benefit tournament in Troup. Proceeds from the tournament were used to help defray some of the expenses Conner’s family incurs taking him to and from hospitals for treatments. Insurance does not cover everything and family members also have to take time off work to care for his needs.
“His family was ecstatic about it” Wallum said of the benefit tournament.
Kendall Sides said his son Conner still has more treatments scheduled, and that everything the community has done in the past and during the tournament is greatly appreciated.
“It will help with the coming treatments,” he said.
The 6-Under teams that participated in the tournament included Troup Thunder, Troup Mustangs, Troup Bombers, Chandler Rangers, Troup Vikings and West Rusk Raiders.
The 8-Under teams that participated in the tournament included Troup Thunder, Alto Colt 45’s, Arp Tigers, Troup Renegades, Whitehouse Cubs, Jacksonville Astros, Jacksonville BlueJays and West Rusk Raiders.
In the 10-Under division, teams that participated in the tournament included Troup Lil Saints, Whitehouse Rangers, Longview Bulls, Chandler Mudcats, Troup Bears, Alto Gators, Whitehouse
Warriors, Troup Outlaws, Gilmer Yellowjackets and Whitehouse Tigers.
“I want to give a special shout out to Donovan Johnson working on those fields this weekend starting at 5:30 and after each game,” Wallum said. “It was the most work I have ever seen someone do and he did this all to help a small community.”
Lee Morris, the TYA vice president of baseball said the board and others got together to discuss the tournament because of the financial strain the family faces.
“They were very thankful that the community pulled together to do this,” Morris said. “Honestly, I figured it well really well.”
Morris also credited Chris and Tonya Harrison and Donovan and Nicole Johnson for helping with organizing the tournament. He said they sent word out regarding the tournament and they were able to fill the rosters within a few days.
“We had to turn away teams,” Morris said.
Morris said one player from Alto who recently diagnosed with cancer desired to meet Conner and did so during the tournament.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” he said.
The tournament continued despite rain, and Conner was even able to pitch during a game.
In the course of his diagnoses and treatment, Conner has endured several rounds of chemo, a procedure to harvest his stem cells, surgery to remove a tumor, stem cell transplants and several scans, tests and more.
Anyone who would like to contribute to Conner’s family to defray their mounting medical expenses can visit the website gofundme.com/knockoutcancerforconner.