Brian Bedell and Mike Ryan grew up together in Vienna, playing baseball and football on the same fields with the same coaches. One of their favorite after-school pastimes was wiffle ball.
"Brian was my best friend growing up. We played ball right here on these fields," said Ryan, standing on a mound on Water’s Field in Vienna addressing a crowd of about 200 people. The crowd gathered for the 12th Annual Northern Virginia Wiffle Ball World Series on Saturday, Aug. 11. The tournament, held in Vienna for a second time, is in its third year of benefiting the Brian Bedell 2-Young Foundation.
Bedell was present at the event on May 21, 2005, the first year it benefited the foundation. However, he died two days later after a two-year bout with brain cancer. Ryan asked the audience to reflect on their best friends, or someone else dear to them who had passed away.
"Every year you have one event where you can remember him and celebrate him," said Ryan. "This means everything to me," he said.
BEDELL, a 1987 Oakton High School graduate, was diagnosed with brain cancer in Sep. 2003. Family and friends reflect on his struggle with the disease with pride, because Bedell chose to fight the cancer with a positive attitude. "He didn’t ask ‘Why me?’ He asked, ‘Why not me,’" said Ryan of his best friend. During the battle, Bedell and his wife, Amy, started the Brian Bedell 2-Young Foundation to battle brain cancer. The name stems from Brian Bedell’s belief that people who have brain cancer are too young to have it, but also too young to give up hope and not fight it. He died at the age of 35.
"Because of everyone’s tremendous support, our foundation has been successful in our mission of fighting brain cancer," said Amy Bedell. Last year’s Wiffle Ball World Series, held in Vienna for the first time, raised more than $40,000 for cancer research at Duke University’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, where Brian Bedell was treated. Since the foundation’s inception, it has raised more than $100,000 for the university’s center. Amy Bedell said that finding out her husband had a brain tumor was the scariest moment of their lives, but having the support of the people around them was of tremendous help. "It was less scary because we knew we weren’t alone," said Amy Bedell, addressing many of those same people at Water’s Field on Saturday.
DR Carlson, another friend of Brian Bedell, said that five days before dying Brian said, "Aren’t we lucky," noting the number of people who signed up to play in a wiffle ball tournament that would benefit the foundation. Wiffle ball players come from all over Northern Virginia and other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, including parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Local politicians and dignitaries also attended the tournament and some participated in the opening ceremony home run derby. On Saturday morning, State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34) beat Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman while U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) defeated Fairfax County’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, a candidate for the county’s Commonwealth’s Attorney position.
"We’ve come a long way in cancer research," said Devolites Davis. "We’ll see a real difference soon, thanks to all of you."
State Del. Steve Shannon (D-35) said the tournament was a great way to remember Brian Bedell’s life and his courage. Tom Davis, Morrogh and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly echoed Shannon’s thoughts. Seeman welcomed the crowd to Vienna and said she was proud the tournament was held in the town.
THE GOAL for this year’s tournament is to match last year’s fund-raising effort, and raise more than $40,000. Ryan announced during the opening ceremony that $15,000 had been raised before the tournament even started through team donations and entrance fees. During the day-long tournament, wiffle ball players and spectators also had an opportunity to participate in a silent auction that featured sports collectibles, tickets to sporting events, dining and entertainment and other products and services. The youngest visitors to Water’s Field kept busy on the moon bounces, slides and other activities.
Ryan said it was possible to contribute to a cause and have fun at the same time. "It’s about taking a passion and making it a catalyst for something much bigger," said Ryan. He said the effort he and other volunteers put forth to manage the tournament did not drain his energy. "None of this is work for me," he said.
Tom Davis said there are many opportunities for people in the community to volunteer for many causes. The wiffle ball tournament, he said, is a culmination of months of work, but it is an enjoyable event for the participants and organizers. "There are a lot of ways to help and have fun," he said.
Devolites Davis said awareness and education in the community go a long way in fighting diseases. She said George Mason University is in the midst of conducting new research in the battle against cancer. According to Devolites Davis, two researchers at GMU, who came from the National Institutes of Health, are in the process of developing a nanocell that can enter the original cancer cell’s core and perhaps stop it from spreading. She said the fight against cancer is important to the entire community.
"I think cancer has stricken every family," said Devolites Davis. "We have found a way to manage most other killers, but cancer has proven elusive." She added that efforts to fight cancer could also lead to new research and application in fighting other diseases.
To learn more about the foundation visit www.brianbedell.org.