Like a lot of organizations, the seeds for the Theresa’s Battleship Foundation were planted on a small scale. In battling a form of cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma, as a senior at CHS, Theresa Fitzpatrick wanted to help other people in her situation and decided to co-found a team for the Cheshire Relay For Life in 2012.
Fitzpatrick passed away just one year later, but with money raised from her team, the Theresa’s Battleship Foundation was created to help battle cancer. Over the last eight years, the organization has raised $835,750 for funding research for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
“It is very hard to put into words what the foundation means,” said 2012 CHS graduate Alexis Sansone, a childhood friend of Fitzpatrick. “It is amazing to see the difference that we are making.”
While many members of the original Theresa’s Battleship relay team have since left their hometown, the foundation has worked to find ways to stay connected and also share Fitzpatrick’s story with other people. This year, Theresa’s Battleship has created the Miles For Smiles Virtual Challenge in which individuals and groups sign up for fundraising and then pledge a number of miles to cover in an outdoor activity during the weekend of May 1-2. All proceeds will go toward cancer research.
“Participants can choose what they want to do, from running, walking, skateboarding, or rollerblading. They can exercise at their comfort level,” stated Sansone. “The objective is to raise money and bring people together for a common cause during this time in the world.”
The virtual challenge was suggested after Sansone and fellow 2012 CHS graduate Taylor Strange participated in a virtual run for the Healy Foundation last fall.
“It was a very fun experience and the event got us thinking about what we could do,” reflected Sansone.
On Feb. 16, Miles For Smiles registration kicked off for individuals ($40), families ($100, children under age 18), and teams ($500) at www.theresasbattleshipfoundation.org. For teams, there is a minimum requirement of 10 individuals.
People can sign up through March 31.
“We wanted to be inclusive, so that anybody could participate,” explained Sansone. “We included family registration because families mean a lot to the foundation.”
For activities on May 1 and 2, participants can work out wherever they wish and log their mileage through Strava, an Internet service that tracks human exercises.
“We want people to get outside in the spring and enjoy the fresh air,” stated Sansone.
The CHS girls’ soccer and boys’ lacrosse teams have signed up to participate in the event. Cheshire field hockey and girls’ lacrosse will also combine for a squad.
“It’s amazing to see the interest,” said Sansone. “At CHS, Theresa’s legacy continues to inspire people to give back.”
As of last Sunday, 305 participants have registered to cover 896.2 miles during the first weekend of May. The foundation has raised $6,303, so far.
“The support has been incredible,” stated Sansone. “We have a fundraising goal of $25,000. With this being our first time doing this event, we don’t have a mileage goal.”
While the majority of participants are from the United States, Theresa’s Battleship does have a virtual presence abroad. Sansone’s younger sister Samantha currently lives in Germany and Cheshire’s Hackett family has family in Canada.
People have also registered in Vietnam.
“I think it is very important to keep bringing people together,” said Sansone.
Through March 31, Theresa’s Battleship is also raising money in their Miles For Smiles Shop. From the online store organized by Cheshire Sports Center, people can purchase shirts, hats, shorts, masks, and more.
“It is inspiring to see so many people who want to give back to this cause,” said Sansone.
For her virtual activity in May 1 and 2, Sansone will rollerblade with fellow 2012 Cheshire graduate Carina Martone in New York.
“We pledged eight miles because this is the eighth year for the Theresa’s Battleship Foundation,” Sansone said.
On the challenge weekend, Theresa’s Battleship is planning to share photos, as well as have 2012 CHS graduates speak over social media. Vegan chef Chrissy Tracey is slated to talk about a recipe, while Martone will discuss yoga.
A motivational speaker, Sebastian Little is also scheduled to give a presentation.
“We all work really hard to have a positive impact,” stated Sansone.
Along with the virtual challenge, the CHS tennis teams will host Play in Purple matches this spring to help raise money and awareness for Theresa’s Battleship.
Wearing purple shirts for their inaugural event last fall, the Rams girls’ soccer team won 8-0 over Hamden and raised over $1,000 for the foundation.
“Our first Play in Purple event was very successful and the coaches want to keep it going,” stated Sansone.
Since Theresa Fitzpatrick co-captained the Rams girls’ soccer and girls’ tennis teams, the foundation feels that there is a special connection to those programs. To honor Fitzpatrick’s memory, purple benches were installed at the tennis courts next to CHS.
“I’m very excited about the fundraisers, especially since Theresa played on those courts,” stated Sansone.
Those interested in contributing to cancer research can make donations at www.thereasbattleshipfoundation.org.