By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Boston’s Teamsters Local 25 awarded a $10,000 grant to Northborough’s famous “Fist Bump Kid” Liam Fitzgerald during its Autism Awards Reception held April 28 at the Strega Waterfront in Boston. The grant will be donated to Liam’s charity of choice– the Mark Fidrych Foundation.
The foundation was formed in memory of Northborough resident and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. It is dedicated to supporting children and adults with disabilities and special needs with a focus on sports.
Ann Fidrych and her daughter Jessica were in attendance to accept the donation. Ann said it was humbling and overwhelming that the Fitzgerald family chose the Fidrych Foundation as the recipient of the grant and that they were amazed at the generosity of the Teamsters Autism Fund.
The Fidrych Foundation supports many programs and area challenger leagues including Northborough’s, which started in 2014. It gives boys and girls of all ages with physical and developmental challenges the opportunity to participate in organized sports including baseball, basketball, soccer, and bowling.
“It’s amazing to witness the joy in the faces of the kids and families,” said Ann. “We will now be able to impact more children and adults with disabilities.”
Liam, a third grader at Marion E. Zeh School, acquired the status of the “Fist Bump Kid” when a video of him fist-bumping Boston Bruin players as they came off the ice in before a November 2014 game went viral. That theme became the basis of his #BumpOutCancer campaign to raise awareness and funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). He received the honor of LLS Man of the Year 2015 after raising over $152,000.
He was born with Down syndrome in 2006 and diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009. After undergoing four years of treatment, he is now cancer-free.
“Liam has overcome tremendous medical challenges at just 10 years old and yet always has an infectious smile and will to enjoy life to the fullest,” said Teamsters Local 25 Autism Fund President Sean M. O’Brien. “When Liam’s family told us about the good work of the Fidrych Foundation and the Northborough Challenger League, it was a natural fit. We’ve supported challenger leagues in the past and know the tireless work the coaches do to give the players and parents the full baseball experience. We’re proud to support the Fidrych Foundation and know that Liam will hit a home run in more ways than one.”
Liam’s mother Christine said, “It is humbling to see him recognized and I can’t tell you how much it means to be able to give these funds to the Fidrych Foundation that will undoubtedly be able to help many families and children. Liam has been participating in challenger for the past year and a half. The group of coaches and buddies are just amazing; they give of their skills, time and love to all of our children.”
Teamsters Local 25 awarded more than $350,000 to 10 area non-profit organizations during the event, which was primarily raised through their annual Autism Gala.
During his LLS Man of the Year reign, Liam participated in and supported several fundraisers, made guest appearances, and broke the Guinness Book of World Records for most simultaneous fist bumps.
His picture will soon be on an ice cream container to raise awareness for Special Olympics as the winner of the Spread the Lovin Award sponsored by Lovin Scoopful, an ice cream company that was started by Maria and Tim Shriver. The company donates 25 percent of its proceeds to the Special Olympics. The ice cream is due to be out in July.
In addition, Liam has yet another honor coming his way – as one of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center’s one hundred 2016 honorees. Each year the center salutes individuals, groups and organizations from across the country and around the globe who make a difference in the fight against cancer in inspiring and often revolutionary ways, according to a release from the center. Liam will be honored at the center’s signature event on Tuesday, May 24.
“As a mom I love how the world has embraced Liam and look to him as an inspiration,” said Christine. “He is a special little boy. It is the tough times that have enabled us to make such an impact.”
The Mark Fidrych Foundation is holding its Annual Kick-Off Auction on Saturday, June 11, at the Vincent F. Picard American Legion Post 234 from 6-9 p.m. More information on the Foundation and events can be found at www.markfidrychfoundation.org