Photo: Andrew McMurtrie Brian McCann signs fan autographs during a Rally Foundation charity softball game at Coolray Field Friday in Lawrenceville. McCann hosted his third annual celebrity softball game and home run derby for the Rally Foundation, a childhood cancer organization that he is heavily involved in.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Childhood cancer is a dirty word in Ashley McCann's mind.
"Everybody's affected by cancer, but childhood cancer?" McCann, the wife of Braves slugger and Duluth High School grad Brian, said Friday. "It's mind-blowing. Those two words should never be in the same sentence."
Forty-six children are diagnosed with cancer each day, forever changing their lives and those of their loved ones. Working with the Atlanta-based Rally Foundation, the McCanns are trying to find a cure.
As part of that, they held a charity softball game and home run derby at Coolray Field Friday night, with Braves greats Chipper and Andruw Jones, former NFL coach Sam Wyche and plenty of "Rally Kids" in attendance.
"It couldn't be a better venue, this is my home," Brian McCann said. "It's a dream come true to be able to put on an event like this and raise money for such a great cause."
Prior to the evening's action on the field, McCann and both Joneses signed autographs for many of the few hundred fans bundled up in the cold, drawing cheers as they made their entrances from the Gwinnett Braves' home dugout. Phil Niekro, sports talk radio host Steak Shapiro and several other members of the McCann family were also there for the fun.
The real focus, though, was on the cause Brian and Ashely McCann adopted several years ago.
"It's all about raising awareness, spreading the word and doing what we can just to make their night and put a smile on their face," Ashley said.
"When you see children hurting, it rips out your heart even more than an adult," Brian added while preparing to take his cuts in what turned out to be a wind-hindered home run derby. "It's something that we came across and met Dean and we just loved what they were all about."
"Dean" is Dean Crowe, the CEO of the Rally Foundation. She founded the organization after William Olson, a teenage friend of her own son, was diagnosed with cancer that later came back after 18 months of remission. As Crowe tells it, she asked Olson's mother what she could do.
The answer was to redirect funds specifically to childhood cancer research, and the Rally Foundation was born. The McCanns came calling early on.
"I think what I love the most about both of them is that they're so genuine and they truly care," Crowe said. "They understand that what we're doing is really important and really makes a difference. They do so much behind the scenes as well as something like this in public. They're amazing."