James P. Wilmot Cancer Center To Honor Baseball Standout

McQuaid Coach to Receive Prestigious Inspiration Award

December 31, 2001

Mike Fennell has always stood up to the challenge of a difficult opponent on the baseball diamond. As an all-star at Fairport High School who made his way to Yankee bullpen catcher, he's faced some formidable foes over the years.

Today, his adversary is lung cancer and his determination to beat it is overwhelming. Throughout his treatment regimen, he's continued to coach the varsity baseball team at McQuaid Jesuit High School and has taught the young men valuable lessons about courage, faith and persistence.

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center will honor Fennell with its Inspiration Award during the third annual Discovery Ball on Saturday, April 27th. The award recognizes individuals who give cancer survivors hope for the future. Previous winners were Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, figure skater Scott Hamilton and author Peter Teeley.

"Mike's attitude has been so positive throughout his treatment and he's had an incredible impact on other patients, family, friends and young people," says Judy Linehan, ball co-chair and member of the Wilmot Cancer Center Board. "He is truly an inspiration to cancer patients and survivors."

Since his diagnosis a year ago, and Fennell, who never smoked, has endured rounds of chemotherapy and radiation at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. He's lost most of his hair and some weight, yet his eyes are still bright and his smile is wide.

But it's his positive attitude and drive to beat the toughest opponent of his life that has made him a role model for cancer patients throughout the area. Linehan nominated Fennell for the award after learning of his battle during a baseball banquet for her son.

"When I found out how his illness has touched the boys and how supportive they are of him, I knew he was the one to get the award," Linehan says.

Last year Fennell led the McQuaid Knights to Section V championship. Many players said they had to win it all for their mentor, their hero.

"He had a tremendous impact on the baseball team," said the Rev. James J. Fischer, S.J., McQuaid president. "He struggled to get out to every game possible to see them play -- even when he could just bring in a comfortable chair and sit off on the sidelines. They got this notion that they played every game for him and they were inspired to do their very best."

Fennell will be honored on Saturday, April 27th, during the Discovery Ball, the largest fund-raiser for the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. The black-tie event will be held at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

The event is expected to raise $300,000 for local cancer research and care.

Corporate and individual sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Mary Ann Dever, director of development, at (585) 275-0806.

For Media Inquiries:
Leslie White
(585) 273-1119
Email Leslie White