Inaugural tournament in memory of Zach Cook raises $3,000

Submitted photo Teams pose with Zach Cook’s mom and dad at the inaugural tournament held in his honour July 13

A slopitch tournament held in honour of a late Prince Albertan who loved to play ball raised $3,000 over the weekend.

The inaugural Zach Cook Memorial Charity Slopitch Tournament was held at the Lakeland Ball Park on July 13, attracting eight slowpitch teams, with proceeds going to Childhood Cancer Canada.

Cook passed away from a rare form of cancer, a desmoplastic small round cell tumour, or DSRCT, when he was  21. He was the first person in the province to be diagnosed with the aggressive cancer. Doctors told the family that Zach had a 25 per cent chance of living for three years. There was no treatment and no cure.

Just months after his diagnosis, Zach was back on the diamond.

“Our son Zach loved ball,” Donna Cook, Zach’s mother, said when reached by phone this week.

“After he passed, we sponsored a field out at Lakeland Ford Park.”

The field was dedicated in a June 2017 ceremony.

“We knew we wanted to have a memorial tournament for him,” Donna explained.

The family started organizing seriously this spring. They spoke to people from Prince Albert slopitch and people Zach had played ball with.

The charity chosen works specifically with families dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis. They provide scholarships for survivors, fund research and support families.

“It ticked all of the boxes for us,” Donna said.

“We know that Zach wanted more awareness of childhood cancers and childhood research.”

Even though he was diagnosed as an adult, Zach was treated at a pediatric cancer centre, since DSRCT is more common in children.

While there were eight teams in the tournament, two made up of Zach’s former teammate ended up facing off in the final game, held on Zach Cook field.

Zach played for the Nitros and the Swamp Donkeys. The two teams facing off for the title Saturday were the Dr. Nitros and the Nitro Donkeys.

Before the game, they held a moment of silence and announced that they would donate their winnings back to the cause.

“It was overwhelming,” Donna said.

“But when It think about it, I should have known, because they were so supportive throughout Zach’s journey. They arranged other fundraising, supported him on the field, and every step of the way.”

Donna said it was hard to put into words what it meant to her to see so many people come out in memory of her son.

“It was amazing. It was awesome to see them all out to say how much fun they were having and how special it was to be able to do this for Zach and keep his memory and legacy going,” she said.

“It was a very emotional day in a really positive way. When you lose a child, there’s nothing worse that could happen to parents. Something like this helps, knowing that people still care, still remember and are willing to come out and support the family.”

Reflecting on the weekend, Donna said seeing that support wasn’t really a surprise.

“They were his ball family,” she said.

“He loved all of them, and he loved playing ball.”