May 2, 2013
By Ryan Syrkus
It occurs in everyday life where people casually go on with their daily routine. Getting to work can be overwhelming due to construction or a traffic jam. You may accidentally spill coffee on your favorite pair of pants. Whatever it might be, these so called struggles which occur on a daily basis tend to overlook just how fortunate many people are. For redshirt sophomore Maddie O'Brien, she was not only reminded about these fortunes she has, but also inspired by a younger girl with the same name.
In September 2010, Maddie Briscoe was only seven years old when she was given the heartbreaking news that she had developed Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. This disease is one of the most common types of cancers found in children and can often be deadly. For Briscoe, the disease caused three tumors.
Through the efforts of Eddy Wright, a close friend of the Briscoe family who contacted head coach Lonni Alameda, the Florida State softball team was able to visit Briscoe in the hospital to help elevate her spirits during her chemotherapy sessions.
"When we walked into the hospital room, she just lit up," O'Brien said. "She was very weak and she couldn't really smile a whole lot because she was not feeling so well. You could see that she was very happy we were there. We gave her a jersey and she was just so excited."
Very quickly, Briscoe took a liking toward O'Brien since they share the same first name.
"It's really awesome to know she looks up to me," O'Brien continued. "She was in the dugout [during the Georgia Tech series in Atlanta]. I would strike out or pop-out and she would just greet me with a smile. Having that and knowing that it's okay and there is more to life than just a strikeout or a groundout, it kind of makes you step back and appreciate life. She's happy for us and she wants what we have. I think just seeing her smile makes you feel so much better."
Since meeting Briscoe in 2011, O'Brien and the rest of the softball program have made strides toward the Briscoe family and helping in any way possible. One of the many activities to help raise Briscoe's spirits included making glow in the dark T-shirts.
"We just wanted to do anything we could to keep her positive and make her smile," O'Brien said. "When we made those glow in the dark T-shirts, we just thought because she was a little kid that she would think it's cool. We actually thought it was cool and wanted to make some for ourselves. Just doing those little things, when she smiles it just tells us that she really appreciates all that we do for her. Sometimes I wish we could do more, but we do all we can. Just seeing her smile makes us smile."
With the occasional visit here and a small gift there, O'Brien and her teammates have raised the hope of a little girl. It all culminated when Briscoe had the opportunity to spend the day with O'Brien during the 2011 Florida State versus Miami football game.
"It was really cool when they came down for the football game," continued O'Brien. "[We took] them around campus and showed them everything. Just seeing how happy they were that we did all that for them made us feel good. She got to meet [Tampa Bay Rays pitcher] David Price. I don't know if she would have gotten that experience if Eddy didn't contact us. Having that contact back and forth and knowing that Maddie did this or did that, it's big to stay in touch."
After roughly a year of not seeing each other, both Maddies were able to meet up once again as the Seminoles recently played in Atlanta against Georgia Tech last weekend. It was also the first time O'Brien and the rest of the team had seen Briscoe and her steady recovering from the disease.
"She came running down to the dugout. Some people I don't think recognized her, but I knew right away, that face, [that it was Briscoe]. It was really cool that they came out. She got to come in the dugout. Her curly hair is something we hadn't seen since last year it wasn't as long. She just had a full face. She looked awesome. I think she is doing well. She's just enjoying life."
Seeing the new, healthier Briscoe was uplifting to the entire team. Although O'Brien and her teammates originally intended to try and inspire Briscoe and make her happy, it also worked the other way around as Briscoe has become an inspiration to FSU softball.
On Friday, May 10, Briscoe will celebrate her 10th birthday. As she continues to age and grow through her life, someday she can look back and realize how much of a source of encouragement she became at such a young age.
"Seeing that bright face [and] that smile, it makes you think, `Wow, why am I upset over that last at-bat? Look at this little girl who went through so much and is loving every moment of life right now,'" O'Brien reflected. "That really inspires us to take a step back and enjoy everything in life and to be happy...That's an inspiration in itself for us to look at what she went through. [We] take every day, not for granted, and we just enjoy life."