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Playing for an 'awesome' girl

Wiffle Ball tourney aids Cipro family

Guest of honor, Ainslen Cipro threw out the first pitch to kick off the fifth annual Wiffle Ball tournament Sunday. Christopher Tanguay. (click for larger version)
August 09, 2009


SOUTHBRIDGE — In Wiffle Ball, the base paths may be shorter and the bats a little lighter, but competition was fierce as ever for the fifth annual tournament to benefit Aislen Cipro.

A Southbridge native, Cipro was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer at a very young age. Now 11 and in good spirits, Cipro is still undergoing treatment for her illness.

Shaun Moriarty of the Southbridge Little League coordinates the annual Wiffle Ball tournament, the proceeds of which are donated to Cipro's family to help offset some of the costs incurred during treatment.

First starting the tournament out of a want to help his longtime friends, the annual event has taken on a whole new significance for Moriarty who over the last couple years has been diagnosed, treated for and cleared of testicular cancer.

"It was certainly a learning experience to see the cost of going through treatment," Moriarty said as he placed bases on the four mini baseball diamonds painted into the grass at Henry Street Field Sunday morning.

Even with insurance to assist with the actual health care aspect of cancer treatment, Moriarty said the tolls, gas, parking fees and other incidentals associated with regular trips to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where both he and Cipro received treatment were a surprise.

"It's kind of made me more aware and sensitive to that," he added, though being to point out that his bout with the disease as an adult does not compare to Cipro's situation.

"I only went through it for several months," Moriarty said. "She's gone through it for several years."

With nine teams registering at $50 apiece and a mid-tournament homerun derby with a $5 per person buy in, Moriarty said the donation they will be able to make to the Cipro family is just about on par with years past.

As early arrivals took batting practice before the start of the tournament, a hometown team, which included previous Town Council hopefuls Dennis Martinek and Stephanie DiMartino, as well as recently elected Councilor Denise Clemence and local activist Monique Manna, entered the park sporting T shirts reading "Southbridge Rocks."

Looking forward to some friendly competition, Martinek said, "We've got a group of people who agree on some issues, disagree on some issues, but for a good cause we all came out together."

For Clemence, who was once an avid softball player, seeing the field full of players and the bleachers full of spectators was a stellar display of what Southbridge is capable.

"It just goes to show that the community can rally for someone in need," Clemence said.

Sitting front and center were Cipro's parents — as she enjoyed the playground behind the bleachers.

Dawn and Brennan Cipro have known Moriarty since he was in high school, and said his continuing efforts have meant a great deal to their family.

"He did an amazing job," Dawn said, looking out over the four individual Wiffle Ball fields. "And he just keeps doing it," Brennan chimed in.

"It's an immense amount of work," Dawn credited Moriarty.

"I think he likes the stress," Brennan joked.

To officially open the 2009 tournament, Aislen threw out the first pitch, and though it wasn't as exciting as when she got to do the same thing at Fenway Park in September 2006, it was no less important.

Walking off the field, passing all the teams who came to the field in support of her and her family, Aislen said it made her happy to see all the faces that came out to play for her, "'Cause I'm awesome."

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepress.com.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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