Tonawanda News — The initials “J.S.” carry deep meaning for Niagara-Wheatfield varsity softball players Aly Gonyea and Mariah Scherrer.
For Gonyea, a captain and four-year starter, J.S. stands for Jessica Stone. Stone was a Niagara Falls High School student and Gonyea’s friend. She passed away of Ewing’s sarcoma in March.
For Mariah, the initials refer to Jim Scherrer, her late father, who died from a form of pediatric cancer in 1997 — 19 years after being diagnosed with it.
The meaning of those letters may run even deeper and reach an entire softball community today. The lives of both Stone and Jim Scherrer will be commemorated when the Niagara-Wheatfield softball team hosts Kenmore West in its third annual charity game, keying on pediatric cancer, at 4:45 p.m.
“This is something that really should continue,” said Gonyea, who pitched the idea of focusing on childhood cancer to coaches Jim and Melanie Proefrock back in March. “Not only does it raise awareness to people all around but it kind of puts all of the players in perspective. Whether it’s cancer or autism, there are things out there bigger than some of our problems.”
The relationship that Gonyea’s family had with Stone played a big part in her request to emphasize pediatric cancer in this year’s game.
Her sister, Olivia, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in January 2009. At her first round of cancer treatment a month later, Olivia met Stone. The two developed a bond that helped Olivia through some difficult times.
“Jess was one of the first girls that took to Olivia,” Gonyea said. “That helped Olivia get through her treatments knowing she had a friend there to go to and talk to while she was there.”
Olivia’s cancer is now in remission. Stone, however, passed away as softball season began.