And, at its most basic, it is a game of getting your guy home.
So it was only fitting that a couple hundred of Ethan Kadish’s friends, acquaintances and baseball lovers would come out swinging Sunday at the ball fields in the back of Loveland Middle School in the first annual Ethan Kadish Home Run Derby.
Ethan is the 13-year-old Loveland boy who was struck by lightning on June 29 at Goldman Union Camp Institute near Indianapolis. The strike caused a severe brain injury and has left Ethan’s parents surrounded by an outpouring of support by the Loveland community, the Jewish community and well-wishers across the United States and world who have read about Ethan’s injury and his journey toward healing.
“It is incredible how Ethan’s story has resonated with people,’’ said Alexia Kadish during the fundraiser that also included a silent auction of donated items worth about $25,000. “Ethan embodies everyone’s child. He didn’t do anything, and a bolt comes out the blue. It was just a random event that could have happened to anyone.
“It could have happened to anyone’s child,’’ she said.
Alexia and Scott Kadish, have lived in Loveland for 16 years with Ethan, his older brother Zak, 16, and younger sister Elyse, 10. The Kadish family is active in the Cincinnati Jewish community. Their children have attended Rockwern Academy Jewish Day School, and the boys have played community league sports. Ethan and Zak transitioned from Rockwern to Loveland Schools.
Laura Berger, a family friend who helps coordinate the more than 400 volunteer members of Team Ethan, said volunteers will help as long as needed.
“I’m a nice person, you are a nice person, but honestly there are no nicer people, no nicer of a family than the Kadish family,’’ said Berger, who considers the Kadish kids part of her own family. “They are the truest friends you will ever have.”
Berger said that for years Alexia Kadish coordinated a program called Family on Call at Children’s Hospital to help Jewish families with ill kids who came to town for treatment. Just a few months before Ethan’s accident, she stepped down from the program.
“She won’t tell you this, but it’s hard for her to be here,’’ Berger said. “She feels as if she can never repay all of this. But no one wants or expects anything. We do it because we love them.’’
That outpouring was evident Sunday, where boys and girls in different age divisions, many of whom were wearing "Team Ethan" T-shirts with his number “19” on the back, took 10 swings for $10 to raise money to help defray some medical costs. Funds raised Sunday will go to HelpHOPELive, the nonprofit organization that is helping the Kadish family with Ethan’s uninsured accident-related expenses.
Organizers said they also hope to help the family with the costs of modifying their home to prepare for Ethan’s arrival back home.
Ethan is recovering in the Rehabilitation Unit at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where his friends and family visit daily. Scott Kadish said doctors have told him they believe Ethan will go home at the end of October or the beginning of November.
Ethan still has a long way to go in his road to recovery. Since the accident, doctors say the eighth-grader has been trapped in a body that’s “barely responsive.”
Ethan has yet to speak or walk or voluntarily move. His therapies are focused on arm, leg and mouth movements designed to help with establishing new sensory connections within his brain.
“Through this whole experience, Ethan has been there. He has looked like Ethan,’’ his mom said, adding that the progress has been slow … but there has been progress.
“We’ve always said this will be done on Ethan time,’’ his dad added. “It is not a race, it is not even a marathon. This is an ultra marathon.
“We are here to support him, the community has been incredible to support him and us,’’ Scott Kadish said. “But the heavy lifting will really be done by Ethan, no one else; what Ethan does will be on Ethan’s timeline.’’
And all the while, the family has a growing team rooting for not only Ethan but for his family as they move closer to bringing their son home.