Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Foster Care

Seventeen years ago I signed up as a free agent at Atlanta Club Sport so I could meet people and play softball. This guy Tim had an opening on his team and selected me. I didn't know Tim nor did I know anyone else on the team. I was the second youngest guy on the team but liked the group that I was playing with. We went to parties together, went out after games and talked about our love lives, our jobs and whatever else we could think of. I kept one thing from all of these players, the fact that I had cystic fibrosis. I never talked much about my CF. I was embarrassed that I wore a vest every morning and took pills before every meal. I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be a softball player. I wanted to be Andy Lipman. I didn't want to be the guy with the terminal disease.

A few months into my run with Fluffy En Fuego, one of our players, Bob Foster, told us that he needed our help...again. "Again?" I wondered. Apparently Bob ran a tournament every year called the Cigna Sports Challenge. Bob wanted volunteers for this event which featured Tug-A-War and putting for holes in one just to name a few. Bob told us it was all for a good cause...the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I hadn't visited the CF Foundation since I was a kid with my mom. I tried to separate myself from it. Everyone on the team volunteered and finally I relented and agreed to help out. Bob was one of those guys you wanted to support. His car tag read "BMOC" (Big Man on Campus). That's how he carried himself. He was one of those guys who you wanted to befriend. Bob and I went to the softball field early some days and played catch. He was the guy who hit a ton of balls over the fence and had this arrogant, yet funny, way about him.

I took part in the Cigna Sports Challenge as a volunteer and saw 2 young girls with CF who received a standing ovation from everyone afterwards. Bob announced that they were the reason that he did this event. Bob didn't have CF and to my knowledge he didn't have any close friends or family with the disease. Still out of the goodness of his heart, he helped put this event together over by Georgia Tech every year. That day a bell went off in my head. I wanted to run something for CF. That's where the idea of Wish for Wendy developed. Bob's influence had changed my life. To this day, I owe him for giving my life special meaning.

Our first year running Wish for Wendy was 2000 and Bob, as he promised me, put his own team in to help the cause. His Intellisales team had several of my teammates on it and I still have a note from Bob on the first Wish for Wendy poster which told me he was proud to help with this cause. Bob and I eventually went our separate ways as Bob got married and moved to Florida. I still thought about him often and looked him up to see what had happened to him. I hadn't heard anything until a few weeks ago.

I got a note from one of my old teammates Cary that Bob had Lymphoma and nothing was working. He was trying something experimental but odds were it wouldn't work. I contacted Bob's wife to check on him. She forwarded me a letter from Bob to all of his friends. The experimental procedure didn't work. Bob, as we speak, is in hospice care and probably won't be around much longer.

Bob, if you're reading this, thank you for all you did for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and for being a mentor for me. I will always be grateful that you took a naive 20 year old kid under your wing and showed him what being a leader is all about. You are a true inspiration and your family will always be in my prayers. It's ironic that the man who gave so much to those who had a disease that diminished their life expectancies is now the one battling a disease that will take his life way too soon.

There's aren't many Bob Foster's in the world. I'm just honored and forever indebted that I got to meet one of them. Bob, we love you guys and your legacy will last even when you're gone.

All my best,


Bob, Jennifer and their beautiful family

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