07/06/2014 10:22 AM -
July 9 marks the annual Midwest Collegiate League All-Star game at Oil City Stadium. However, this year there is a much more important cause at hand during the game for one little All-Star.
Bryce Nowakowski, who is one and a half years old, is the son of Calumet College of St. Joseph head baseball coach Brian Nowakowski. Bryce is currently in the fight for his life, as he is waiting for a heart transplant after being diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at birth. This syndrome causes normal blood flow to be disrupted, not allowing the left side of the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.
Bryce already had two out of the three needed surgeries and was in line for his third surgery when his circumstances changed on April 5. What was thought to be a normal stomach bug bothering Bryce was found to be a clot in his heart, and a heart transplant was necessary. Through the many ups and downs during the past three months, the Nowakowski family is still waiting for a heart transplant.
The Oilmen, with the help of the Nowakowskis, Calumet College of St. Joseph and the greater Northwest Indiana Region have teamed up to host a benefit night during the July 9 MCL All-Star game. Fifty percent of ticket sales will go toward helping offset the hospital bills.
Peter Haring, the Calumet College of St. Joseph Athletic Director, described the power of athletics in a time of need.
“Athletics is that unique part that can be an extension of family,” Haring said. “We’re just trying to use our family, as an extension of a communication conduit, to get people aware of Bryce and his needs once that heart transplant comes.”
Brian Nowakowski said they have just finished week 10, as of June 28, and are awaiting a transplant any minute, as the average wait time is about six weeks.
Nowakowski was extremely thankful for the support from Calumet College of St. Joseph, and what they have meant to his family. While this is an extremely difficult time in his life, Nowakowski has a meaningful take away from it.
“The importance of realizing that these tragedies are out there, and to cherish every day with your children,” he said.
Nowakowski also shared that this event was more special to him because it combined his two loves, baseball and his son. The combination is one of the reasons why he is “so grateful to Calumet College and the Oilmen for doing this for me and my family.”
Sports can serve as a vehicle to help raise awareness for causes and Haring is excited about the event, and the great benefit it can provide for the Nowakowskis and the community.
“It’s a nice cooperative,” Haring said. “That's the unique thing about sports, you can bring a sporting organization like the Oilmen, connect it with a college program like CCSJ, and a cause that is pretty close to everyone in that part of the Northwest Indiana Region to bring about awareness. We are looking forward to the ninth.”
After the MCL All-Star Game, there will be another event hosted by the Nowakowski family on July 20 at Silver Buckle Saloon in Highland to continue their effort to raise awareness and funds to help Bryce with his battle.
There is also a donation website to help the Nowakowskis at youcaring.com/bryce-our-superhero.
While July 9 may serve as a celebration of the collegiate All-Stars, it is a little All-Star that needs our help and will most certainly be the MVP of the night.