Wyoming’s Christy Paganelli ballgames remember past, eye a better future
By K.D. Norris
This Friday, an annual baseball and softball game will held between Wyoming and Grandville high schools, the sixth to honor the person and the spirit of Christy Paganelli, who lost a courageous 18-month battle with melanoma.
But the game, and its message, is really so much more — the theme is “Play for Melanoma” but, according to Christy’s widowered husband Dino, the event recognizes all cancer awareness and prevention, and is committed to making sure everyone is aware that melanoma skin cancer can happen to anyone and how to prevent it.
“The importance of this is to just honor lost love ones and those currently fighting a battle with cancer — any cancer — but it’s melanoma that I am really aware of, and I want young people to be aware of the significance of prevention,” Paganelli said in an interview with WKTV. “I am really scared for this generation.”
The two games are scheduled for May 5 at Wyoming High School’s baseball and softball fields, with both games starting at 6 p.m.
The players will be wearing special “sponsored” jerseys in honor or in memory of someone. As a player is announced at the beginning of the game, that person’s story will be told.
“Each player has a personal connection,” Paganelli said, who saw the connection firsthand with his and Christy’s sons, who play for Grandville. “Brady played in it last year and he was really humbled by the experience, to see the leadership their mom had and showed. And now Jake is on varsity and I know he will be humbled by it.”
Between innings, an American Cancer Society spokesperson will be reading facts on melanoma so everyone can be aware of the dangers of skin cancer and what the risk factors are. There will also be printed information available for attendees to take with them.
“She (Christy) was really reserved, she would not really like all the hype” of the games, Paganelli said. “But she would have been in favor of getting the information out there. It is a community event that I am always amazed at, the stories you hear from the sponsors, and it always takes me back.”
All proceeds from this game go to melanoma education and research, as well as student awareness at Wyoming high. Separately funded, the Christy Paganelli Scholarship Fund at Aquinas College, where Christy attended and played softball, funds one or two student scholarships each year.
“Wyoming is a very special and caring community and we are thrilled to have everyone rally around this very personal cause.” Susan Brogger, Community Manager of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Lakeshore Division and the American Cancer Society, said in a supplied statement.
Wyoming high continues tradition
The very special cause, and sometimes very personal cause, is not lost on the student athletes either, according to the two Wyoming coaches, softball coach Troy Mast and baseball coach Shawn Veenstra.
“I believe the event is special for our athletes as they know the event is for a great cause and they get to represent more than just themselves and their school,” said Veenstra, who with Mast has coached the games for four years, since Wyoming Park and Rogers high schools merged. Before that Rogers hosted the games.
“They know they are playing, not only for cancer awareness, but also for the sponsor on their jersey,” Veenstra said. “A lot of times the kids are playing in honor of a family member or family friend who either has passed away or survived cancer.”
Christy Paganelli played multiple sports at Rogers in the late 1980s, and went on to Aquinas College. Christy and Dino Paganelli’s three children are students at Grandville.
Dino’s father, Carl Paganelli, who has recently had a recurrence of a cancer, will be the honorary home-team captain of the baseball team. The honorary home captain for the softball, Terrance Sommerdyke, is a melanoma survivor, Paganelli said.
Carl Paganelli is a long-time Wyoming resident and patriarch of a family that includes three sons who officiate in the NFL, including Dino.