Local six-year-old cancer survivor throws first pitch at Cyclones game

Striking out cancer. A brave six-year Brooklynite, Maggie Russo, a survivor of Retinoblastoma, cancer of the retina, received the honor of throwing out the first pitch before the Brooklyn Cyclones game on Saturday, July 26 as part of “Strike Out Childhood Cancer with Columbia Utilities: Brooklyn Cyclones Bat for American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO).”

“She was nervous and excited all rolled into one,” said Maggie’s mother, Mary Beth. “She has been a Cyclones fan since birth. We have pictures of her wearing her Cyclone gear at six months old.”

Through the years, Maggie’s favorite activity was to attend Cyclone games. When she was diagnosed in 2009, the cancer forced her to miss attending many games. Maggie was nearly two years old when the disease was discovered.

“While she was sick, what she hated the most was that she missed going to games. She missed the fireworks, Cracker Jacks, talking to the players,” said Mary Beth. The Cyclones organization kept in touch and gave her private opportunities to follow the team, but Maggie wanted to be at the ballpark.

After months of chemotherapy, the disease took a toll on the brave child. On November 2010, she finally received a transplant. The surgery, coupled with time, had Maggie on the fast track to recovery, much to the joy of her family.

“She was so strong throughout the process. Words cannot express how proud of her we are. We can’t explain,” she said. Mary Beth and her husband often look at a photo album that includes pictures of Maggie’s progression to health.

“She was a healthy little girl, and to see photos her sick, having lost half her body weight then to see her recover is amazing,” said Mary Beth. “My husband and I look at those pictures in that one album. It’s the story of our family.”

The Russo family is a part of Candlelighters NYC, a local affiliate of ACCO. With the help of these

organizations, along with the Cyclones, Maggie was given the opportunity to throw out the first pitch.

“To be able to do something special while fully healthy was a great celebration of what a special girl she really is,” said Mary Beth. “The Cyclones always do a wonderful job, from the players to the vendors. They’re a family-oriented group.”

Maggie’s entire family, including her three siblings, along with thousands of fans, stood up and applauded her as she marched to the pitcher’s mound. “The crowd was on their feet cheering her. People were coming up and congratulating her,” Mary Beth said. “It’s nice to go back and just enjoy game and not wonder about if she is going get sick.”

Maggie is now healthy and very active in school. She is on the track, soccer and basketball teams. Her favorite subject is art.

“I’m so proud of my daughter. She’s my hero. She earned and deserved this opportunity with what she’s gone through,” said Mary Beth. “We thank God with how lucky we are. So many people not as lucky we are.”

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