SARASOTA, Fla. - What a day for Carly Schulman.
The 16-year-old Hampstead resident and devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles got an all-expenses trip for her family to spring training, courtesy of Casey Cares.
Casey Cares is the brainchild of Casey Baynes, who founded the program in 2000 to support critically ill children and their families.
In 2010, Carly was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Baynes found out she was an Orioles fan, and arranged a trip to FanFest in January and a three-day Florida trip, which included airfare for her parents, brother and caretaker, a hotel stay, tickets to Thursday's Orioles game with the Atlanta Braves and some special visitors.
Carly, a student at Manchester Valley High who is developmentally delayed and has seizures, was clearly overjoyed to be on the field at Ed Smith Stadium before the game.
She watched batting practice, wearing a Nick Markakis jersey, and admitted that Matt Wieters was her favorite Orioles player. Markakis signed her jersey at FanFest, and her father Steve, showed off a ball that Wieters autographed for her on Thursday.
During batting practice, two unexpected guests arrived: First baseman Chris Davis and shortstop J.J. Hardy.
"I need a hug," Davis told Carly, and she readily complied.
Davis and Hardy posed for a picture with her, and a few minutes later, Brian Matusz conducted a tour of the Orioles' complex for Carly and her family.
"She's a big fan and they offered her a trip," her mother, Laurie Schulman, said. "Since she was real little, all she wanted to do in the summer was watch games on TV or go to games."
Her father estimates that the family attends about 10 games per season.
While undergoing treatment at Sinai Hospital, Carly used the Orioles as part of her therapy.
"She went to a lot of Orioles games right from treatment. It's one of the things that helped her get through some rough times," Laurie Schulman said. "This is a time to celebrate her recovery and have her do something she really enjoys."
Baynes, a 34-year-old Ellicott City resident accompanied the Schulman family to Florida.
"Talk about the perfect trip for them. They're enjoying this special day at training camp," Baynes said.
"This is more about the whole family, not just Carly. It's nice for everybody to come and have a break like a regular family."
Casey Cares helps critically ill children and their families in five Mid-Atlantic states, Baynes said. Currently, they work with about 500 families, including about 12,000 people.
"There are always new families coming, and unfortunately there are families leaving us because of a death of a child," Baynes said.
After a child's death, Casey Cares works with the family for a year.
"We offer these same trips because we're all about the whole family," Baynes said.
Baynes was working in a hospital and after an event for cancer patients, heard a little boy's voice.
"I wish I had cancer because maybe I'd get cool stuff, too," the boy said.
"There were tears running down his mom's face. I don't know what that little boy had - obviously it wasn't cancer," Baynes said. "That's when I knew I had to look into this."
Baynes and her family sat with the Schulmans in seats just off home plate and during the fifth inning, Carly's caretaker, Sarah Maize, and her mother were shown dancing on the scoreboard to "Old Time Rock N' Roll," and Maize was named the team's "Fan of the Game."
The family enjoyed the whole experience, particularly the tour where she went to the weight room, training room, clubhouse, manager Buck Showalter's office, media room and clubhouse.
Carly was especially impressed with the pingpong table in the clubhouse. Matusz was up for a game with Carly.
"Brian challenged Carly, but Carly declined," Steve Schulman said.
In the weight room, she met Brady Anderson, who's now a team executive, and second baseman Brian Roberts.
Roberts offered to lift weights with Carly, but again she passed.
"She didn't want to show off," Steve Schulman said.