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A month before her wedding, Caitlin Motte’s grandfather, well-known Memphis florist, Lynn Doyle, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Between that time and the day he died on Dec. 26, 2011, a lot happened. For starters, she married Jason Motte, a relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, whom she met while he was playing for the AAA Memphis Redbirds. Then, the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, with Motte saving five post-season games.
While in Memphis, the Mottes also became familiar with West Cancer Center. It was there, sitting with her grandfather during treatments, that the couple started their journey toward becoming cancer philanthropists, and the Jason Motte Foundation was born.
“It started when we saw a sign at West requesting donations for blankets,” Caitlin says. “I thought, ‘We could do that.’” But they were called to do more.
Caitlin called Jason before the end of the 2011 baseball season to suggest they auction some signed sports memorabilia from friends and teammates to raise money. They opted to wait, which was a good move for two reasons - Jason’s winning trip to the World Series and her grandfather’s high standards. “My grandfather always said, ‘Don’t do anything if you’re going to do it halfway.’”
In November of 2012, the first “Strike Out Cancer with Jason Motte” event was held at the Clark Opera Memphis Center and raised nearly $37,000 for Wings Cancer Foundation. A year later, the second “Strike Out Cancer” event also raised funds for Methodist Healthcare Foundation and West Cancer Center.
But the Mottes were just getting started. Jason ordered 300 t-shirts featuring a backwards “K” printed over the word cancer that he figured he’d give teammates and sell at one of his events.
…and the pitch
A year later, the shirts are made in every team color, each variation associated with one player from each team who has been touched by cancer in some way. They’re sold by retailers and on 108stitches.com, with $5 going to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 going to the cancer charity of the player’s choice.
After an elbow injury, Jason underwent surgery in May of 2013. He used the spare time to push his foundation into high gear. “I saw it as an opportunity,” he told FOX Sports writer Ken Rosenthal earlier this year. “I thought, ‘I don’t know why this has happened. But it has happened for a reason.’”
The foundation has raised more than $100,000 so far. Whatever the reasons or the outcome, Caitlin is grateful Jason bonded with her grandfather, grateful for West and Wings and grateful for the Methodist Hospice Residence where Lynn Doyle spent his last days.
“Methodist is going to do the best they can for everyone who comes through their doors,” Caitlin says. “It’s not under the best of circumstances, but it’s like you gain a whole other family.”