As many of us know all too well, social media can be an absolutely rotten space sometimes. The internet is chock-full of trolls and people spewing hatred with no regard for the people on the other side of the screen. But every once in a long while, there will be a small beam of light that shines through to the surface and something good can come from social media. That’s exactly what happened this Valentine’s Day.
While too many of us are familiar with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty has been impacted in a way that many can't imagine. During the 2017 season, Stephen's mother Gretchen was diagnosed with the currently incurable disease. The diagnosis understandably led Piscotty to miss time with the Cardinals in late May, for which the reason was undisclosed at the time. Joining the team only a week later, one couldn't help but to think about how something of this gravity was affecting the 27 year old outfielder mentally and emotionally. Stephen finished out 2017 with the Cardinals and returned to his home in California in October. In December, Piscotty was traded to the Oakland Athletics for minor league prospects. The trade was considered a win for all parties, as, most importantly, Piscotty will now be able to be near his mother during the long MLB season.
Fast forward to February 2018. A friend and nurse of Gretchen, Beth Sblendorio, recently decided to raise money to develop treatments and a cure for ALS through running in a half marathon and the Boston Marathon.
"Through these difficult months, it has become apparent to me that so much more must be done to raise awareness of ALS. And with increased funding, there is hope of developing new treatments and -- one day -- a cure. Since one of my passions is running and racing, I thought, “What better way to get the word out? I will dedicate my races to TEAM GRETCHEN and raise money for ALS!”" -Beth Sblendorio via Classy
Looking to raise $10,000, the Piscotty family began blasting the fundraiser across social media. Susan Slusser, the San Francisco Chronicle's Athletics beat writer helped spread the word, sharing the Team Gretchen page on Twitter.
It didn't take long for Cardinals twitter to get word of the fundraiser and take action. 55 is the number that Piscotty wore during his time in St. Louis, so @StlCardsCards asked Cardinals fans to give that amount, using the #55for55 hashtag. The movement caught traction and by the next day Cardinals fans had raised $1,087.15 (and more in the following days) for ALS research in honor of Gretchen Piscotty. Currently, the grand total has surpassed the original goal of $10,000 and now sits at over $13,000 (with a new goal of $20,000). Additionally, Slusser caught word of what Cardinals fans were doing, and challenged Athletics fans to match the effort on Twitter.
This goes to show that no matter how toxic social media can be sometimes, we can use it to come together for a cause that really matters. We may just be a bunch of baseball obsessed nerds, wasting away our lives online, but while we're at it, it's nice to know that we can use it to help people.
Throughout the year, Birds On The Black will be pushing several more charitable drives and we hope that you will find a way to participate. Though some of us (me, a poor college student) may not have the amount of disposable income that others might, just remember that any little bit can help those that really need it. That said, if you have a Cardinals/baseball related organization or cause that you are passionate about, we want you to let us know. You can slide in our DM's or just mention any of us on Twitter, it doesn't matter, we just want to help. Though we are a small website and only have a certain amount of reach, we can do our part to make a difference with your help.
Finally, if you haven't yet and would like to make a donation to Team Gretchen, you can go to the Classy page and make your donation here: https://www.classy.org/campaign/team-gretchen/c166633.
Thanks to everyone who participated in #55for55. Peace.