It's a rare treat to step onto the field at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, but one that Rodgers Forge resident Brett Roberts has enjoyed twice.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Roberts joined his younger sister Ava, his grandmother Susan Behm, of Wiltondale, and friends and relatives of his late mother, Jennifer Brock, for the LUNGevity Foundation Breathe Deep Baltimore 5K Run/Walk at Camden Yards.
"It's definitely special," said Roberts, 16, and a junior at Boys Latin. "It's really cool that every year we come together like this. I think it's a great way to remember her."
The event, which drew nearly 500 people and, as of Saturday afternoon, had raised ore than $54,000 for lung cancer research, has become an annual tradition for Team Jenny B, one that began years ago while Brock was still battling lung cancer. Brock died of the disease in 2010.
Robert's recalled that his first on-field experience at Oriole Park — as a young boy with his mother — was as exciting as it was chaotic. Roberts was chosen to join the Orioles' mascot on the field for a small baseball game.
He recalled the bird tossed him a Wiffle ball, and Roberts smacked a "really good hit" and took off around the bases. The mascot, however, had other ideas, and literally threw away second base to throw the youngster off. Roberts said he was puzzled, and simply stood on the infield wondering what to do before the Bird put the base back, and then touching second, before running all the way home.
Saturday's walk represented a much more structured event for Roberts — one that has become an annual way to honor his mother's memory.
The locations of the walks have varied over the years, but save for one event shortly after his mother's death, Roberts has been a frequent attendee.
"I think it's definitely his way of handling the loss," Susan Behm said.
This summer, the teen branched out to stage an event of his own for the cause. He said it was based on his youth, when his mother and grandfather, Towson University English professor Carl Behm, taught him to skim board.
The hobby has become a passion for Roberts, so he sent out letters to sponsors, went door-to-door to businesses in Northside, Del., and hosted a skim boarding event in that community — ultimately raising another $6,440 for LUNGevity.
The Breathe Deep walks and runs are LUNGevity's nationwide signature events, launched by the foundation to raise public awareness and critical funds needed for lung cancer research. Officials said LUNGevity has the largest grants award program for lung cancer research among lung cancer nonprofit organizations in the U.S. In the past two years, LUNGevity has awarded more than $5 million to lung cancer research projects.
Behm said that Brock's diagnosis came while she was six months pregnant with Ava, who is now 6. She said that even after that diagnosis, Brock remained resolute in the idea that she would not be consumed with the fight against cancer, but instead with living life and doing what she loved while the battle carried on.
She had four good years after the diagnosis, Behm said, and passed away with no regrets as to how she spent her final years.
At Saturday's LUNGevity, many of the participants and survivors were walking for people who, like Jennifer Brock, never smoked a cigarette in their lives.
"It's a majority, I'm pretty sure, (of people who are diagnosed) that aren't really affiliated with smoking," Roberts said. "One thing that I like to do is spread awareness that you don't have to smoke to get lung cancer."