- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - Mary Crawford was a key player on the 2002 Mount St. Joseph Academy girls’ basketball team.

Then, one July day in 2012, Mary and her husband, Matt Alberty, discovered that life is not all state championships, rainbows and sunshine. Their 2-year-old son Nolan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Bleeding from the mouth and a body covered with bruises led to the diagnosis.

Their lives became tied to the hospital. It became their home. Matt quit his job to be at the hospital full time. Mary, a dietitian at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in White River Junction, kept her work uniforms in the car, enabling her to go from one hospital to the other.

Nolan’s diagnosis turned their world upside down and the journey became one of hope followed by disappointment. There was a remission, but then Nolan had a relapse.

Tuesday showcased the latest turn on this road and it is a positive one. Nolan threw out the first pitch at the high school baseball game in Ludlow between Black River and Long Trail. He has been in remission three years.

He played on the playground adjacent to the field with his younger brother, Colin, before being called to diamond for his part in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Black River coach Jim O’Neil tried to direct him to an area close to home plate, but Nolan was having no part of it. He raced to the mound, toed the rubber and his 6-year-old arm delivered a pitch - with something on it, no less - to Black River catcher Austin Turco, who had moved closer to him.

Nolan is cancer-free, though there are side effects. His spine is 2 inches shorter than it should be due to the radiation and he has seizures.

“They are controlled by medication,” his mother said.

He is in kindergarten at Cavendish Elementary School and plays baseball and soccer.

He is in his second year of T-ball, but in his first year not using the tee.

“I hit a home run,” Nolan said proudly after throwing the pitch. Long Trail pitcher Evan Crumb, the starting and winning pitcher in the game who rang up 10 strikeouts in five innings - was impressed by Nolan’s throw.

“He has quite a wing on him.” Crumb said.

Nolan gets occupational therapy and physical therapy right at his school, something Matt and Mary appreciate.

“It’s not another doctor’s appointment,” Mary said.

Slowly, their lives are returning to normal. Matt is back at work as a finish carpenter and Mary still works at the VA Hospital. Through it all, the family has had plenty of support.

The MSJ community has been supportive with a fundraiser. The MSJ girls’ basketball team dedicated its 2014 semifinal game at Barre Auditorium to Nolan.

Ludlow Elementary School teacher Lisa Marks works tirelessly at fundraising and runs the Boston Marathon each year, with Nolan serving as her “patient partner,” a fundraiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute Center in Boston.

“Lisa has raised a lot of money and it’s made a difference,” Mary said. “Last year she raised $26,000.”

Marks said if you had seen Nolan during his long stints in the hospitals you never would have believed he could be running around the way he is today.

“He is a walking miracle,” Marks said. Black River softball coach Zoe Trimboli handled the public address duty during the ceremony.

“What a cannon,” Trimboli said to the crowd after Nolan’s throw to Turco.

Crumb threw 97 pitches in Long Trail’s 13-7 victory and besides the double-digit strikeouts, he also deposited a ball over the center field fence as the No. 3 hitter in the Mountain Lions lineup.

Yet, he was upstaged by a 6-year-old and could not have been happier about it.

“I am glad we could give him his moment,” Crumb said.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2qOcboD

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For more information: The Rutland Herald, www.rutlandherald.com

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