For the Rockland Boulders PR man Christian Heimall, the partnership between his team and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is very personal.
By Ali Jackson-Jolley
When Christian Heimall went to his doctor with a persistent sore throat and swollen glands in December 2014, he received devastating news: He had stage-3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system. At 25, Heimall’s future had been looking bright. Just two months prior to his diagnosis, he had been elevated to promotions and public-relations manager for the Rockland Boulders, a Minor League Baseball team based in Pomona, NY. It was a career move that put him one step closer to his ultimate dream of becoming a sports broadcaster for a Major League Baseball team. “I still remember sitting in the doctor’s office and thinking: How am I going to tell my mother? How am I going to tell my girlfriend? What does this mean for my job?” Heimall says.
While exploring his options for treatment, Heimall says he received a recommendation that Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a Member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, might be his best course of action. “I learned that for my age group [for this type of cancer], the pediatric treatment is 30 percent more effective than the adult treatment.” Less than a month later, Heimall began treatment under the care of Jessica Hochberg, MD, and her team at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.
“I was definitely the biggest kid in the hospital – but I am grateful I was there,” Heimall explains. Over the next four months, during the course of multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Heimall spent nearly 60 days in the hospital (his hospital bed often doubling as his office and workspace). On March 31, 2015, he received great news: He was cancer-free.
More good news was to follow later that spring, when Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital entered into a partnership with the Rockland Boulders by becoming an official sponsor. “The partnership with Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital hits close to home with me,” Heimall says. “It is a perfect opportunity for the Rockland Boulders to work with this hospital, which does tremendous work with the kids. There is a perfect synergy between these organizations.” In fact, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital isn’t the first WMCHealth Network hospital to team up with the Boulders: Good Samaritan Hospital, in Suffern, NY, became a founding sponsor back when the Rockland Boulders threw their first pitch, in 2011. Their continuing relationship includes such annual events as a hospital employee picnic, an EMS appreciation picnic and “Pink in the Park Day,” when funds are raised to benefit the hospital’s Center for Breast Health.
For Heimall, a highlight of the partnership was last summer’s Star Wars Night, to benefit the Children’s Hospital. “It was a tremendous night. We raised almost $5,000,” he explains. To promote the event, Heimall also made numerous visits to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, bringing along the Boulders pitcher Nate Roe and the team’s mascot, “BoulderBird.”
Drawing from his own personal experience, Heimall says that when faced with long-term injury or illness, sometimes the simplest things can make all the difference. “That’s why I love this partnership, because if I can put a smile on one kid’s face, after he or she has gone through a difficult treatment… that’s huge!” he says. “I know from personal experience what it’s like to want to feel normal.”
Coming up on nearly a year of being cancer-free, the future is once again bright for Heimall, who is already planning another Star Wars Night for the Children’s Hospital. “We want to make sure we can do something to benefit these kids,” he says. •
For more information visit www.westchestermedicalcenter.com/MFCH.
Photo By Ken Gabrielson