By Doug Ireland
---- — Martin Foley is still a teenager, but the death of a loved one from cancer has had a big impact on his life.
The 13 members of a Newton, N.H., youth baseball team haven’t been personally affected by cancer, but they are pitching in to raise money to fight the disease.
Hundreds of people across the country are teaming up this summer to support The Jimmy Fund, a charity that raises money for cancer research through the Dana-Farmer Cancer Institute in Boston. It’s perhaps best known for being the official charity of the Boston Red Sox.
When Foley, a 19-year-old Salem, N.H., resident lost his stepfather, William Corso, to colon cancer in March, he knew he had to do something to help beat the disease.
That’s why Foley will be at Showcase Cinemas in Lawrence from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today to collect donations for the Jimmy Fund. Before each movie begins, the Southern New Hampshire University student will ask theater patrons to do their part in the fight against cancer.
Foley was at Showcase last weekend as well, filling his can with donations before the start of 10 films. It was a satisfying — but very emotional — day for Foley, still feeling the pain from his stepdad’s death at age 50.
“It really felt like nothing I had ever felt before — it made be feel good,” he said. “I just thought of my stepfather the whole time.”
Foley is just one of many volunteers participating in the Jimmy Fund’s Theatre Collections program — its old fundraiser, according to Dana-Farber spokeswoman Robbin Ray. Volunteers have been passing collection canisters at movie theaters since 1949, raising $29 million, she said.
Foley, who splits time living with his mother Lee Corso and his father, whose name is also Martin Foley, admits he wasn’t that close to his stepfather until shortly before his death. But Foley admired William Corso for his strong work ethic and sense of humor, and knew he truly made his mother happy.
“I had the highest respect for him,” Foley said. “He was a very funny guy and loved joking around. He liked putting a smile on people’s faces.”
The Corsos had been together for 10 years before getting married five years ago. William Corso had two children, Jesse, 21, and Rachael, 19, from his previous marriage.
After William Corso was diagnosed with cancer in October, Foley and his 17-year-old sister, Brianna, did their best to help their mother and stepfather. But it was an especially tough time for Foley, who was attending college in California at the time.
When Corso’s health took a turn for the worse in February, Foley returned home to be at his side and later decided to transfer to SNHU.
After Corso died, Foley didn’t look back. He contacted Jimmy Fund representatives and asked how he could help others beat the disease his stepfather could not.
“I didn’t want anyone else to go through it,” he said. “That’s what motivated me.”
The team of Newton Little Leaguers had a similar motivation, wanting to raise money to beat cancer, according to team secretary Kristen Williams. Her 9-year-old son, Kolten, is a member of the team.
The boys, ages 8 to 10, haven’t been directly affected by cancer, but know the importance of finding a cure, she said.
Andrew Pugh, 9, said he and his teammates are dedicated to helping collect money.
“People are sick and I want to help them get better,” he said.
The players have their own websites and are seeking donations at each of their eight games and two fundraisers. The first fundraiser is July 25 at 7 p.m. at the Hen House restaurant in Newton. The second is a charity softball game Aug. 4 at 2 p.m. at Greenie Field in Newton.
They have raised $1,500 so far and their goal is $5,000, Kristen Williams said.