Strikeout Cancer Game

The varsity softball team hosted a strikeout cancer game and collected donations for Pedal the Cause, an organization that funded cancer research

The weight of the ball in her hand brings her back to reality as she touches the date written on the inside of her left wrist. She kicks the toe of her cleat into the mound while she surveys the field, the blue ribbons in her teammates’ hair catching her eye. She takes a deep breath, escaping into her own mind, into her own game. This time, however, is different. Jessie Hopper plays for her dad, honoring him in the game they loved so much. 

In a game against Webster Groves High School, the girls’ varsity softball team hosted their first ever Strikeout Cancer game. The game, featuring raffle prizes and shirt sales, was organized in memory of Jessie’s father Dave Hopper who passed away in March 2019 after a seven year long battle with prostate cancer. Softball player and teammate of Jessie, Rayne Grus, was one of the students who took on the planning of the event, and said she was grateful to be a part of something honoring the family she’d known for so long. 

“I’ve known Jessie ever since elementary school and I’ve been really good friends with her ever since then. I’ve been along the journey with her dad so we just wanted to do something that would stand out for her family,” Rayne said. “It not only feels good for myself but I know that it made Jessie and her family happy to see that this many people cared and would be willing to do that for them.”

One of Jessie’s softball coaches since freshman year, varsity coach Amy Leatherberry, said she saw the game as a meaningful tribute to the sport that had been a point of connection and refuge for both Jessie and her father. 

“We try to give all the girls a safe space to talk about it or share about it if they needed to, but I think sports become a little bit of an outlet,” Leatherberry said. “It’s not that you’re ignoring real life, but you get a break and you’re just a part of that game. It was a place where it didn’t have to be about all that.” 

An avid fan of her games, Jessie said her father was a huge part of her softball career and the Kirkwood program in general, and that it was special for her family to see the girls he loved to watch honor his legacy. 

“I’ll always remember that, it touched my family in a way that’s unforgettable. To see two rival communities come together to support one cause, especially one so near my heart, I think from now on, anytime I pick up something softball related, I’ll remember it,” Jessie said. “Just knowing that I have people that I can talk to [that know] what I was going through at this point in my life is such an amazing thing to have, it was just such an amazing day.”