Katie Marino: Fight Like A Family

By Katie Marino

No. 27 Katie Marino, pictured above with her twin brother, Anthony, is an infielder on the Notre Dame Softball team, hailing from Warren, N.J.

To learn more about Softball’s Strike Out Cancer initiative, click here. Join the ND Family on Saturday, April 18, by wearing orange and posting photos and videos on social media in support of cancer patients and survivors. 

 

When I walked onto the Notre Dame campus for the first time my freshman year of high school, I was overwhelmed with this feeling as if I were at home. I felt loved by a community that didn’t know me, felt part of something so much bigger than myself and had a sense of safety and security knowing this University would take care of me. Saying “yes” to commit to the University of Notre Dame was one of the easiest and best decisions of my life.

After committing, I had three years to wait before I would attend the University of Notre Dame. During that time, I constantly received reassurance that committing to this university was the best decision for me. One such reassurance was Notre Dame Softball’s Strike Out Cancer weekend (SOC).

The first time I heard about this event was my sophomore year of high school when the coaching staff sent out an email about it. The way the coaches spoke about it, you knew it was something that meant the world to them. Reading the emails and looking at the various photos, I could feel the love, passion, work and excitement put into an SOC event. I didn’t know the full extent of the events at the time, but I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

Over the next few years, I learned SOC began in 2011; the year after Coach Gumpf’s daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed with Leukemia. Coach and the softball program had experienced firsthand what it was like to see a loved one go through one of the most difficult experiences of a lifetime, and decided they needed to do something to help others experiencing the same.

This wasn’t about Notre Dame Softball; it was about so much more. It was about providing for families in need to help ease their burden. Since 2011, SOC hasn’t just been a key fundraising event; it’s become a central aspect of what it means to be a Notre Dame softball player. It’s simply become our “Why” as a program.

When I learned about all of this in high school, I was an outsider looking in. While I knew so much about the cause and how big its impact was, it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I truly understood the importance of SOC on a personal level. During this year, my twin brother, Anthony, was diagnosed with brain cancer. I remember him walking into my room the night after a bunch of scans and doctor appointments. He said, “Don’t be sad, but I have cancer.”

You hear the words, “I have cancer,” and your thoughts go in a million different directions. In that moment, you learn that nothing else in the world matters. All that mattered was doing everything and anything I could to make sure that my brother was going to be OK.

That year was an emotional rollercoaster for my family, and especially for my brother. The amount of strength it took someone his age to deal with what he had to deal with was unreal. However, he couldn’t have done it on his own.

During this time, you learn the power of hope, love, positivity and a support system. That is when I truly understood SOC. We use the power of hope, love, positivity and a support system to change people’s lives. When they’re struggling, we give them that extra hand to keep pushing, keep fighting and keep looking forward.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

After this, I felt so connected with the cause and what Notre Dame Softball’s Strike Out Cancer weekend represented. When I finally was a freshman at Notre Dame getting ready for my first SOC weekend, it was around the same time my brother had gotten his first-year scans back. He was officially one-year cancer free.

I don’t think I knew how much this meant to me until I was able to be a part of SOC weekend with my family. On Trivia Night, the coaches announced a special shout-out to my brother, and my family and I just broke down. We were now on the other side of this battle, and we were able to take our experience and use it to help others who were still fighting. That night, my brother was able to help cut off 12 inches of my hair to donate to another child beginning his or her battle, the battle that my brother had just won. I will never forget that night and that weekend.

Since freshman year, the team and I have constantly found so much excitement and happiness through preparing for each Strike Out Cancer weekend. Whether it be setting up events, competing to get as many donations and sponsorships as you can, meeting all the children and families battling cancer, or anything else, this team LOVES it. We truly love seeing the positive impact we can have on others and this cause.

Earlier this year, we were able to see one of our team’s past “Fight for Life” teammates, Gabe, who is now in remission. To help a five-year-old battle cancer and come out on the other side with a huge smile makes everything worth it, and keeps us constantly pushing to see more and more smiles every year.

I think when you’re stuck in your daily routines and busyness, you never have the opportunity to take a step back from it all and be grateful and present. We get caught up in all of it, and this time away from everything has allowed me to reflect on everything I’ve been able to experience the past four years. It’s easily safe to say I miss this team and university more than anything. I was laughing while in one of my Zoom classes the other day, thinking, “What I would do to be in the basement of Jenkins and Nanovic in this class right now!”

I’m so grateful to this university and softball program for everything it’s been able to provide me over the past years. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought I would, and I’ve met some incredible people along the way. Knowing this was going to be my fourth SOC weekend as a softball player, I was so excited to do anything I could to make this the best experience yet.

Before our season was cancelled, we were just beginning to set up a website and start looking for donations and sponsorships. SOC is the spotlight of our season, and the quarantine and social distancing won’t change that. Although it’s disappointing to not be with the team during this time, we know this situation can never be an excuse to stop doing what we set out to do.

We will still do everything and anything we can to provide what SOC stands for (from a distance)! This opportunity allows us to find new ways to provide for others, and maybe we’ll be able to learn a few things to carry with us for the years to come. Join us on Saturday, April 18, to wear your orange in support of those fighting cancer. We’re so excited to lend our support and see the orange from all over.

Simply, to this softball program, to this university, and to the ND Family, I want to say thank you, and, as always, Go Irish!

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