What’s Working: Organization makes big splash with cancer survivors

What's Working

Mobile, Ala. (WKRG) — Baller Dream Foundation is making treatment easier for children and young adult cancer patients.

The non-profit organization was founded by testicular cancer survivor Frank DeBlasi. The Baller Dream Foundation lifts the spirits of brave young warriors and their families affected by cancer. Rather than “patients,” they call the stars of their mission, “Ballers!”

WKRG met one of the “Ballers,” Ava Smith. She’s a seventh-grader at St. Dominic Catholic School. She was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare soft tissue cancer, Spindle Cell Sarcoma. She went through multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and surgeries. She has been in remission for 11 months.

“My cancer was in my upper inner thigh. It was localized, but it was aggressive,” Smith said.

The Baller Dream Foundation found out about Ava and wanted to gift her with something special. Founder Frank DeBlasi interviewed her to figure out what might make her happiest. He learned that she loved to swim. So, at the last Baller Bash in Alabama last year, he surprised her with the news that he was going to have a pool built in Ava’s backyard.

“He said, ‘I have a little surprise for you’ and then he brought out pictures of the pool, and I was speechless. I wanted to cry I was so happy,” Smith said.

Smith’s pool was installed in January, and she has loved swimming in her backyard!

The Baller Dream Foundation has provided large gifts for five Alabama children this year. Since the organization started 10 years ago, 200 children and young adults (up to age 25) have received surprises. They also provide toys for children undergoing chemotherapy at USA Health Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

DeBlasi started the organization after he was diagnosed with cancer in his late twenties. He wanted to give back in a big way. He also wanted to make lasting connections with “Ballers.” He didn’t want to just give a gift and just walk away. He stays in touch with each recipient.

“It is the most fulfilling activity, effort, mission in my life…to bring smiles to these Ballers and their families during the most challenging moment in their life. I can’t tell you the emotion that comes over me, each and every time I meet, speak, and ultimately and create this forever friendship that we have,” Deblasi said.

“It’s amazing. The family we have built with The Baller Dream Foundation. It’s a blessing,” Ava’s mom, Amber Smith said.

The Baller Dream Foundation will be surprising another young person at their fundraiser a week from Sunday. They are hosting the “Baller Bash” on Nov. 14. It’s from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hope Farm in Fairhope. For ticket information, click here.

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