Saturday’s softball scrimmages between Cleburne and Palestine will extend beyond the challenge to see which JV and varsity teams score the most runs.
The Lady Jackets and the Lady Cats are also competing to see who brings the most Legos to the practice game to benefit Brody Nelson’s Legos for Little Warriors project. The competition was proposed by Regis Andrez, a member of the Cleburne High School Class of 2000 and the new head softball coach at Palestine.
“Coach Andrez contacted me last summer, expressing an interest in scrimmaging us at our new softball facilities,” Cleburne Coach Paul Chavez said. “Right before Christmas, he proposed we see which team could bring the most Legos for Brody’s program.”
“I know our baseball team has been a major supporter of Brody and we love the idea of showing our support for Legos for Little Warriors,” Chavez said. “I don’t want to lose to Palestine. We want to raise more Legos than they do while showing our support for Brody and the kids.”
Brody, a fourth grader at Coleman Elementary, is currently undergoing chemotherapy that has reduced a lemon-sized tumor and a series of smaller tumors in his brain to an undetectable proportion, with no additional tumors developing. His treatment includes a monthly visit to St. Jude to meet with his medical team.
His passion for Legos and his compassion for fellow “soldiers” battling cancer led to “Legos for Little Warriors.” The idea for the project was born in late September during Brody’s participation in Fort Worth’s St. Jude Walk and Run to End Childhood Cancer.
“We organized a team for the walk, and raised more than $6,000,” Brody’s mother, Courtney Nelson said. “More than $1,600 was contributed in Brody’s name. During the walk, he turned to me and said, ‘do you know how many Legos that would buy for St. Jude kids?’”
His thoughts took shape, with the first donations to Legos for Little Warriors arriving on his tenth birthday last October. All he wanted for his birthday were Legos—for his project. Family and friends, including members of the CHS baseball team, who have named Brody an honorary member, came to his party with Legos in hand.
Word of his project quickly spread, with fellow members of Westhill Church of Christ joining the initiative. The Dallas Stars has promoted his initiative, with a number of hockey fans bringing Lego kits the night Brody dropped the puck at the team’s “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” event.
More than 1,300 kits have been donated to Legos for Little Warriors since Brody’s birthday/launch party. Chavez and his Lady Jacket softball team are hoping to add to that number.
Chavez understands well the journey Brody, and fellow cancer fighters are making. More than 15 years ago, Chavez was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, which was followed by a year of radiation and recovery.
“I know, and so does Brody, what it means to have family, friends and a community take that walk with you,” he said. “It can be a daily struggle going through those things.”
“I’m fine now--I’m good and Brody is too,” Chavez said. “I understand his thoughts in wanting to provide hospitalized children with something that will take their minds off their situations and fill the time.”
“When you go to the hospital, you can feel kind of alone,” Chavez said. “The medical treatments can make you sick and irritable. This is like therapy for a lot of these kids. It’s tactile. Legos are things you can put together, something you can create, complete—and accomplish.”
Chavez, like many educators, has seen multiple children battle cancer and other medical conditions.
“In my first year of teaching, I had a first grader who had leukemia,” he said. “I shaved my head to match his. I know what it’s like to see a child battling the big fight. As teachers and employees of CISD, we’re in the kid business—we’re all about kids.”
Many of the Lady Jackets met Brody for the first time on Tuesday, although they all knew his story. In his locker room meeting with them, he shared what the Legos they were collecting would mean to the little warriors receiving them.
"Being able to help Brody means a lot,” senior team leader Baylie Ritchie said. “Meeting him made my day, because I absolutely adore how he took his love for Legos and thought about others. Helping others is such a big thing to be proud of. I can't wait to start the season and be able to share the love of this sport with Brody."
The ten-year-old will be throwing out the first pitch at an upcoming CHS softball game. Already a seasoned baseball player, Brody will be getting in some practice softball pitches with his father, who plays on their church team.
“The hospitals we’ve talked to said Legos are something they do not have to give to patients,” Ty Nelson said. “Their response to Brody’s drive has been very well received. When people donate toys to a hospital, it’s usually stuffed animals, dolls or books.”
Brody, who is now known as the “Lego kid” at St. Jude, described his meeting with the softball team as ‘very cool.’ He’s also very excited to have them join his Legos for Little Warriors team. He left their meeting with an armload of kits donated by the Lady Jackets—with a promise of much more to come.
“Cleburne is a community, and also a family,” Chavez said. “We’re also all Yellow Jackets which is an important third bond. We don’t want to lose the scrimmage or the Lego drive to Palestine. This is a good thing both teams are trying to do. It’s going to be fun.”
Saturday’s scrimmages will begin at 11 a.m. with the JV, followed at 1 p.m. with the varsity.
Brody Nelson shares the story behind his Legos for Little Warriors project to provide hospitalized children with Lego kits with members of the Cleburne High School softball team. The Lady Jackets are collecting Legos for Brody in conjunction with Saturday’s scrimmage with Palestine.
Cleburne Head Softball Coach Paul Chavez gets acquainted with Brody Nelson during afterschool practice on Tuesday. Both have battled the “big fight” with cancer.