Softball sisters

by Sonja J. Keith

Friendship has been the best medicine for two teenagers who have not only softball in common, but also cancer. They are members of two teams from two different communities who have formed a special bond.

Kaitlyn Campbell, an eighth-grader at Cabot Middle School and daughter of Jeff and Sheri Campbell, has been battling cancer since last summer. Her close-knit softball team has dedicated its season to Kaitlyn and offered support to her and her family.

Kaitlyn is a member of the Arkansas Pride Softball Team, which has members from several cities including Vilonia and Cabot.

Kaitlyn has played softball since she was about 6 and has competed the last two years with Arkansas Pride, although the “core group has been together for a long time.” Kaitlyn has played catcher in previous years but is expected to move to the outfield when she is released to return back to the team, according to her dad, which they hope will be in June.

“She’s had lots of chemo and has only been able to go to a few games,” Jeff said.

For Kaitlyn, the most enjoyable aspect of playing softball is the friendship she enjoys with her teammates. “I like being able to play with some of my closest friends,” she said. “It’s good to have somebody there for you.”

Korey Heath, a member of the Arkansas Wild Things team out of Russellville, is among Kaitlyn’s special softball friends. “She’s one of my best friends,” Kaitlyn said.

Pride is somewhat of a “sister” team to the Arkansas Wild Things, with players and families becoming acquainted over the years while playing in the same tournaments.

Korey, a seventh-grader, began having migraines and vomiting, which led to a diagnosis of a brain tumor on June 18, 2012. She had surgery the following day. She recently finished treatment and was able to return to playing on the team.
Korey, a daughter of Randi and Michael Heath, began playing T-ball when she was 4 and has been on a traveling softball team since she was 8.

The two teenagers actually met while undergoing treatment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They enjoy texting, hanging out and overnight visits.

Jeff notes that even though Kaitlyn and Korey have been through a similar situation battling cancer, they act like normal young people when they interact. “They don’t talk about cancer,” he said. “They talk about kid stuff, and it is 90 miles per hour.”

“Kaitlyn has been to the house several times,” Randi said, explaining that Kaitlyn assures her parents that “Miss Randi knows how to take care of me.”

Randi said her daughter is continuing physical therapy and her coordination is a little slow right now. Her last treatment was in June. Although a little nervous, she was back at bat on a recent Saturday matchup with Arkansas Pride in Vilonia.

Kaitlyn, too, is anxious to return to her team. “She had her uniform on at 7:30 this morning even though the game wasn’t until 10:15,” Jeff said with a smile.

The two teams have been competitive but have always been friends. It was no surprise that after the game players from both teams exchanged hugs and high fives, followed by a group prayer.

Kaitlyn and her parents are appreciative of the friendship and support shown by Arkansas Pride and Wild Things.

“They’ve done a lot for our family and Kaitlyn. It’s not surprising they would show the support they have,” Jeff said.

Pride marked Korey’s return to the ball field with a gift — a special T-shirt that read, “Lots of PRIDE in our Wild Thing.”

Randi said the friendship between the two girls has to be one of the best things to come along. “They understand what each has gone through.”

Michael describes the friendship “as the best medicine in the world” for both girls. “It’s been huge for both of them."