In the wake of tragedy, Danny Cruz looks to be a beacon of light.
Because on Thursday night, Cruz will be committing one when he represents Philadelphia Union at the annual Comcast SportsNet “Shining Stars” awards celebration and gala.
The event, spearheaded by CSN and benefitting the March of Dimes organization pairs disabled children alongside a player from one of the five professional Philadelphia sports teams. Earlier this season, Cruz spent time with Jimmy and Michael Bonsall, twins that were born with major complications that took months of surgery and recovery time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The Bonsall twins suffered from a condition called "HELLP Syndrome," a life threatening abnormality that most notably raises the blood pressure in infants to dangerous levels.
It was a great experience for the Bonsall twins and for Cruz, who told philadelphiaunion.com in August after the kids hung with him and the team that “it was a blessing to make their lives just a little more special.” Cruz is the second Union player to take part in this endeavor. Courtesy of CSN Philadelphia and the March of Dimes foundation, defender Sheanon Williams became friends with Phoenixville’s Mari Gilbert during the 2012 season, a six-year-old also suffering with a debilitating condition.
The reunion that the event will cause for both the twins and for Cruz will certainly be exciting for all, but it also arrives at a rough time. Cruz is currently grieving the death of his grandmother Patricia Quimby, who passed earlier this week after succumbing to an undisclosed illness she was battled for months. For Cruz, attending the ceremony didn't come without some sadness, admittedly but he made a commitment to the Bonsall twins and his grandmother would never want him going back on his word.
Shining Stars. In the case of Cruz' it'd be tough to find a more literal meaning for the phrase.
“I knew she wasn’t the healthiest, but I never saw this coming,” said Cruz about his grandmother’s passing. “My family, they’ve told me on numerous occasions that my career here with the Union is what they think kept her alive as long as she was and kept her going. I’m okay talking about this and her when it involves soccer; because I know I didn’t have a bigger fan. She would have wanted me to be here, and to celebrate with those kids because she was passionate about me and who I am as a person. A large part of who I am as a person is because of her.”
Cruz said that Quimby – a last name that serves as Cruz’ middle name – was the true matriarch of the family, one that was relied on in tough times. Earlier this week, the Union midfielder took to social media posting a series of text conversations with his grandmother that proved her love for both him and his professional soccer career, one heading into its sixth season.
— Danny Cruz (@Dannycruz5) January 8, 2014
“She gave me a lifeline along with my family when we struggled financially, she allowed us to move in with her and live with her in Arizona,” Cruz said. “I lived with her, I grew up with her…she’s my rock. After every game she was the first one to text me and see how I was doing. She’s someone that I am going to really miss and will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Since his grandmother’s passing, Cruz has been in the hearts of the Philadelphia Union family, with scores of supporters reaching out via social media to lend their condolences. On Thursday, Cruz will need to be strong for two boys that have a special place in their heart for the player that took time out to make their day a little more special one sunny, warm afternoon after practice at PPL Park.
It goes a long way. He knows that, he knows his grandmother would have wanted that.
And it’s why he’ll be there.
“The reason I’m going to the [CSN Shining Stars gala] is because I made a commitment and I don’t go back on my word,” Cruz said. “I made a commitment to [the Bonsall family] and to some young kids. My grandma is someone who instilled my values in me and it would be insulting not just to this great family I had a chance to meet but to my grandmother and I would never do that. It’s just not how we are built.”
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org