SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Five-year-old Marshall Brown lives a life that any sports fan would envy.
Even though he’s just a kid, Brown pretty much has free reign of the Salt Lake Bees’ stadium, Smith’s Ballpark all throughout the summer, as often as his mom, Ashley, lets him stay up past his bedtime.
It’s just one of the perks you can enjoy when your dad works for the team.
“Being at the ballpark is a big part of what we do,” Marshall’s father, Brady, who works as the Marketing Director for the Bees and Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G-League explains of his family of five. “They come hang out here and act like it’s their place.”
“There are no rules,” he laughs.
Although he’s got plenty of baseball game experience under his belt already, Marshall’s first love is basketball. It was actually on his way home from a basketball camp that he and his family began an extremely difficult and exhausting journey.
On his way back home from playing hoops last August, Marshall complained to his parents that he thought he had suffered an ankle injury, like the one his hero, Donovan Mitchell had experienced during the NBA playoffs.
After noticing his limp and a large bump on his left foot, the Browns took Marshall to the doctor, where they learned the devastating news; Marshall had a rare form of soft tissue and bone cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. His entire body was riddled with tumors throughout his legs and torso.
The family immediately put their middle child in chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It’s been tough – Brady explains that the radiation targeted at Marshall’s foot has almost entirely eaten away at all of his skin – but effective. The tumors have either shrunken or remained the same size, which Brady says is a good sign.
“He’s just a little stud,” Brady says of Marshall’s attitude throughout the months of chemotherapy. “He just goes for it probably better than any adult would be handling it.”
Still, it can be tiring. Marshall is sometimes completely wiped out after his treatments. Ashley has brought the basketball hoop into the house for him to enjoy while he rests, something Brady jokes would never be allowed if Marshall was feeling better.
While Marshall is in the thick of his battle against cancer, his illness has also been difficult for the rest of the family to deal with.
“Outside of getting him to the doctors and saying my prayers, honestly, like there’s not a ton I can do with cancer,” Brady admits. “I can try to try to help him out with anything that he needs, but it’s a helpless feeling.”
Oftentimes, Brady is asked by concerned friends and coworkers what they can do to help. Knowing what to say in response is almost always impossible.
Fortunately, the Bees have come up with a way to help one of their smallest but most loyal unofficial team members with a blood drive at the ballpark on Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Clean blood, Brady explains, makes a huge difference for Marshall in his treatment.
“He got his transfusion on Tuesday and today, he’s like a whole new kid because it makes such a difference for him,” he relays. “So giving blood and allowing other people to have that precious blood, whether it’s a person who’s had trauma, or whether it’s someone with cancer is like this, is a whole new lease on everything.”
In a campaign spearheaded by Bees communications manager Kraig Williams, the blood drive at the stadium will not only help Marshall but also anyone who needs blood.
Deborah Jordan, who works as the community relations manager for ARUP Blood Services, the lab assisting with the blood drive, says the impact of donation can be vast. Having plenty of blood on hand is life-saving in many situations.
“I think people forget that all kinds of patients are using it,” she explains. “Transplant patients are using it, if you’re having open-heart surgery, or would use some blood if you get a car accident. You might need something if you slip while putting up the Christmas lights and hit your head, you might get something from the hospital.”
Donating is easy too, she adds. It only takes about 25 minutes to complete a collection.
And even though heading to the ballpark in the wintertime may seem counterinitiative, doing so now is especially important, Jordan states.
“In the winter, blood donations kind of go down a little bit. People are busy, they’re traveling, they’re thinking about other things, and they’re otherwise focused, and families coming to town,” she empathizes. “So these community blood drives are really, really important to make sure that we’re supplied at the hospital.”
Brady knows the importance of donating blood himself. He lost a brother who often benefitted from transfusions to cancer 14 years ago and has always made an effort to donate when he can.
And now, when people ask how they can help him, Marshall, and his family, he finally has a good answer.
“It’s hard to know what to say to people, like I don’t know, find a cure,” he says half-jokingly. “I believe people are sincere and want to help and this is just one way they can do it.”