Two years ago, Little League boys at the town’s three middle schools rallied behind a fellow teammate fighting a sudden diagnosis of leukemia.
On Tuesday, Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks personally came to thank them after Team Andover capped off three years of fundraising for the Jimmy Fund at $21,660.
Through the Jimmy Fund’s Rally Against Cancer, schools and businesses throughout Massachusetts competed for visits from either Middlebrooks or Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Team Andover won the contest’s “wildcard” prize, which was drawn randomly from all the teams that raised $5,000 or more this year. The local team netted $5,539 to earn the visit from a rising Sox star.
It was a cancer diagnosis for youngster Jackson Quinn — affectionately called Number 8 — that led Team Andover to form in 2011.
“We were all kind of stricken by grief,” Ben Andreson, 14, said. “One night, I was watching TV and my mom said, ‘Hey, look at this — Rally Against Cancer.’ We started it, and we thought of every idea we could and it was fun.”
What happened next? “It just went viral,” he said.
Three fundraising cycles later, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s coffers are now $21,660 richer in honor of Number 8.
Many of the students behind the effort are now going on to high school.
Quinn, meanwhile, finished his leukemia treatment in March and, so far, has a clean bill of health, his mother, Julie Quinn, said.
Middlebrooks’ visit was the “icing on the cake,” student and Team Andover member Ben Andreson said.
“It brought it to an end,” he said.
Team Andover formed on the baseball diamond, as the boys all played Little League together and felt personally affected once Number 8 walked off the field to battle cancer. When the fundraising team started, it did so not as three middle schools, but instead as one community united by a single student.