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An emotional journey at the Danny Gans Memorial Champions Run for Life

Donny Osmond hosted the Danny Gans Champions Run for Life in Discovery Park in Henderson, NV.
Donny Osmond hosted the Danny Gans Champions Run for Life in Discovery Park in Henderson, NV.
Gabe Ginsberg / Vegas Kool

When I was told this was going to be a truly one-of-a-kind event, I didn’t know what to expect. The one thing I didn’t expect to do was cry my eyes out. After an event like this, it brings a lot of things in life into sharp perspective.

Donny Osmond runs the baseball diamond with a champion
Gabe Ginsberg / Vegas Kool

Debbie Hall of Vegas Kool had written a story about the 5K run, the fun walk and the team race. She also covered the aspect of Donny Osmond hosting the event. I took a few photos while she did an interview. No big deal.

While Debbie was off and running to another event, I stayed around to see what this Champions Run was all about. I stood with my camera on the pitchers mound of a baseball field at Discovery Park, waiting for the event to begin.

The Woman’s softball team from UNLV came out on to the field and lined themselves up around the bases. More people from event coordinators to Pirates and Sirens from Treasure Island joined the UNLV ladies until the baseball diamond was outlined with people.

Still not 100 percent sure what was going on, I just stood and waited. Cosmo (the mascot of the 51s-Las Vegas baseball team) and the Duke (the mascot of the Wranglers-Las Vegas hockey team) joined me near the pitchers mound. “This should be fun,” I thought to myself.

Trip Mitchell, long-time sports announcer, radio and TV personality, explained that the champions would walk or run around the baseball diamond. Donny Osmond then took the microphone and started to explain how he had a hurt knee. He said some lady named Marie had been chasing him around. The crowd laughed and I thought this put the event in a light mood.

How wrong could I have been? Trip introduced the first Champion to Run. It was a 14-month-old child with cancer. Donny embraced the child in his arms as he walked around the baseball diamond being joined by the pirates, the sirens, the mascots and the UNLV softball team.

Ok they got the point across; this was a serious event with a bit of humor. The crowd cheered, and it became very emotional for several of the people participating in this event. Trip announced more champions to run the diamond and each champion got to pick their “running” partner. Trip would give a short bio on each child, explain his or her likes and dislikes and his or her aliment.

It was going well. I was really impressed with these child champions. Despite their conditions, they ran around the baseball diamond like true champions. Spirits were high as some picked Pirates of TI to walk with them while others picked only the Sirens. Some children picked everyone. A few picked Donny Osmond in order to race him around the track. I must say Donny is a pretty quick runner, but he is racing champions. I don’t think he won a race though he was close a few times.

I had been laughing and enjoying the antics of the mascots and the crowd. The next race was a memorial race. As Trip tried to interview the friends and family that was walking in memorial of a 17- and 19-year-old, no one could speak. Everyone was choked up and on the verge of crying. As the memorial walk began, tears started flowing out of my eyes. As a parent of a teenager, I couldn’t imagine what these parents were feeling. As they walked the diamond I noticed the Cancer Sucks tee shirts. That was it for me. I had to stop shooting because I couldn’t focus with the tears in my eyes.

As I wiped the tears from my eyes, Trip was announcing a little girl. When he asked her what group of people she wanted to run with, she said her brother. When Trip asked if there was anyone else she wanted to run with her, she firmly stated “Just my brother!” (Here we go again, more tears started to flow. Actually they are flowing now while I am writing this.) The brother took his sister’s hand and as they rounded first base, I couldn’t help but see the ear-to-ear smile on the little girl’s face. She was with her champion, her brother. The crowd cheered them on as they went from base to base and finally home plate.

My heart hurt for the families and the children. From ages 14 months to 22 years of age, these children were battling for their lives. Yet you couldn’t tell because they were having fun, laughing and enjoying the attention from all the local celebrities. In other words, they had a chance to be children.

Danny Gans started an amazing event to benefit the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, and unfortunately, like many of the children he tried to help, his life ended too soon. It was great to see that Donny Osmond pick up the torch and keep Danny’s dream alive.

I know my life has been changed. The press release was correct saying this would be unforgettable. The moment I got home I hugged my son and wife. Life is short enough, live it to its fullest.

If you get a chance, I suggest you attend one of the Nevada Childhood Cancer events. Just showing up helps the children. Participating helps more, and if money is tight, volunteering your time can be just as important.

Since 1993, the Mission of the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation has been to work side by side with the medical community to provide social, emotional, educational, financial and psychological support services and programs to families of ALL children diagnosed with a life threatening or critical illness such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell, hemophilia, renal disorders and other immunologic diseases.

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