In July of 2011, the Kansas City Royals were stumbling their way through yet another losing baseball season, their 26th in a row without a trip to the playoffs.
In July of 2011, our volunteer board for SIDS Resources Inc. gathered in Columbia, Missouri, for our annual face-to-face meeting. In case you haven’t heard of it, SIDS Resources is an organization dedicated to educating the public about ways to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and also supporting families that have lost a loved one to SIDS. It is a small nonprofit that serves Missouri, as well as parts of Kansas and Illinois. I started serving on the SIDS Resources board in 2007, and I became its chair in 2010 through 2011.
Because our board was split between people who lived in Kansas City and St. Louis, most of our interactions were conducted through monthly conference calls. Each summer, most of the board members would drive to the middle of the state and meet for a few hours in a hospital conference room in Columbia. It was a chance to brainstorm new ideas, get to know each other, and enjoy pizza from Shakespeare’s, Columbia’s best-known restaurant. During our brainstorm in 2011, one of our members had a very good idea. Our Kansas City office was lacking in an annual marque fundraising event. St. Louis already had a couple of big fundraisers, including one that involved the beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Why not do a summer event around baseball in Kansas City, the board member suggested. Perhaps it could be one of those events where kids and their families could run the bases, or do batting practice on a real baseball diamond?
That idea became “Strike Out SIDS” which debuted in 2012 at Community America Ballpark, home to the independent league Kansas City T-Bones. The event was fun – kids ran the bases, adults hit batting practice, we had hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and a couple of the usual bouncy houses – but the crowd was fairly modest. Only about 200 or so people attended. I left the SIDS Resources board after 2012, but the nonprofit moved forward with its plans to turn “Strike Out SIDS” into a big event. Last year produced a breakthrough as the big-league Kansas City Royals agreed to host “Strike Out SIDS at the K.” The “K,” in case you don’t know, is shorthand for Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play. This was a fantastic opportunity for SIDS Resources, and last year’s event turned out to be a big hit.
This year, it will be even bigger. The once-maligned Royals are in the hunt for the American League Central crown. Friday’s “Strike Out SIDS at the K” will be a crucial game against the division-leading Detroit Tigers. It will be a sellout, and perhaps the most important baseball game in Kansas City since the 1985 World Series.
A big baseball game in September represents the kind of exposure and awareness that SIDS Resources has always lacked in Kansas City. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third-leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, claiming 2,226 lives nationwide as recently as 2009. While there is no known “cure” for SIDS, organizations like SIDS Resources do important work teaching parents and day care providers how simple steps like putting an infant to sleep on his back on a firm mattress can sharply reduce the risks of SIDS. Despite all the access we have to information, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and mythology about what SIDS is, and how it can occur.
This afternoon, I picked up some “Strike Out SIDS” T-shirts for my wife, myself and our son. We’re looking forward to joining 45,000 other fans at the K tomorrow night and watching the Royals win.
We already know it will be a big victory for our friends at SIDS Resources.
Saturday is your fourth birthday. I hope you will enjoy it. Nothing could top your third birthday, which we celebrated by spending a week at Disney World. You may remember your birthday dinner at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort, the procession of Disney characters who stopped by our table, working you into a sugar-fueled, nap-deprived frenzy. You became so uncontrollable – rolling around the floor, hooting and screaming, doing somersaults out of our booth – that we had no choice but to put you in time-out right next to the gift shop and below the monorail station. Your mama and I felt awful about it, but that was the only way we could calm you down. It was really the one black mark on a trip that involved four Disney parks, countless character encounters and, amazingly, us training you how to go potty on your own.
Your fourth birthday, which will be spent with your friends at an indoor inflatable playground, won’t hold a candle to Disney World. But it will be the celebration of a year in which you continued to grow and thrive and learn so many things. As already mentioned, you graduated from diapers (at least during the day). You spent almost the entire summer at the swimming pool, finding the nerve to hold your head underwater, paddle around the shallow end, and even jump in all by yourself. You rode a big-boy bike with training wheels, learned the basics of football, soccer and basketball, and saw your first movie in a theater (Turbo: the animated tale of a snail who has the need for speed). You sat still and paid attention in your pre-K class, earning innumerable smiley faces on your performance chart. You learned that a pepperoni and sausage pizza from Casey’s General Store was the best food in all the world, except for your mama’s own spaghetti and meatballs.
The year 2013 was a challenging one for our family. You were a joy and inspiration through it all, however, even after you stopped taking naps on the weekends. When the weather was nice out, we toured the area playgrounds, including your beloved Penguin Park. When it was lousy outside, we did puzzles, played “catch” in the basement, and watch the same episodes of My Little Pony over and over again. We took you to your first Kansas City Royals baseball game, where you sat through two innings, devouring a hot dog and Cracker Jacks, before moving on to the outfield playground. You began a fascination with dinosaurs, and the T-Rex Café became your favorite dining spot.
Through all of this, you talked, sang and laughed constantly. Not a day passed when you didn’t say or do something that cracked your mama and me up. You showed a knack for one-liners, as I sometimes documented on my Facebook page (Me: We don’t ever whine in this house, now do we? You: Yes, but we can pretend to whine). You were smart-alecky, sassy and spoiled, but a blast to be around most of the time. When you got out of hand, you would reluctantly accept time-out, serve your punishment, then greet us with a grin and a hug. You were happy most of the time, and you never held anything against us for very long. Every single day, you said “I love you” to us, and that more than made up for all the unfinished meals, spilled bath water, and arguments over TV time.
These are just a few of the observations I can conjure up from what was another memorable, discovery-filled year with you, son. I know your fifth year is going to hold even more adventures, shenanigans and hilarious quips (“We ran out of batteries!” you said when the house lost power last summer). I can hardly wait for it to begin.