Softball game to be played in honor of Natalie McMillian
For the Warren Central High School softball and baseball players, dressing out takes on a whole new meaning during their annual Halloween Spooktacular fundraiser.
Wearing costumes ranging from kitty cats to clowns, the teams have a howling good time in the name of helping others.
The sixth annual event will be held Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. at National Field at Halls Ferry Park. Proceeds collected will honor the memory of Natalie McMillian, the 15-year-old daughter of Amanda and Jonathan McMillian, who died Oct. 11 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“The loss is still so new, and it is very hard to put into words how much this means to us, but it absolutely means the world to us,” Amanda said of the fundraiser.
Dana McGivney, who coaches the Warren Central softball team, said team members select who will be the recipients of the fundraiser.
“Each year I ask my older softball girls if there is anyone particular in the community they know of that they would like to do the game in honor of, and they chose Natalie,” McGivney said.
The decision had been made prior to Natalie’s death, but the softball team decided to continue to play the game in Natalie’s honor, McGivney said.
Describing her daughter as a cheerful and loving child, Amanda said, “Nat was always happy. She was always smiling. She never stopped. She loved everybody and would give you the shirt off her back, and if you needed help she was going to help you.”
Along with the tenacity to fight, McMillian said, Natalie was also strong in spirit and in faith.
“When we say fight like Nat,” McMillian said, for Natalie this would mean, “putting God first, trusting God and letting him lead.”
After being diagnosed with a highly aggressive brain tumor, diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) in December, Amanda said Natalie refused to give in to her illness and assured her family she and God had this.
“With Nat and DIPG, she would always say ‘God and I got this,’” McMillian said.
After rounds of radiation, the tumor had not grown, McMillian said. It was a secondary infection and sepsis that ultimately took Natalie.
“But Nat did not let go until we said it’s OK to let go,” McMillian said. “You have to love them enough to let them go and that is the hardest thing ever as a parent but you have to.”
Taking their daughter’s lead, Amanda said their strength, too, has come from faith.
“If it wasn’t for our faith, we wouldn’t be able to continue on because that was our baby,” Amanda said. “Nat taught us a lot about life, about loving people and about putting God first.”
The loss of Natalie has also affected her sisters, Chelsea and Lauren, Amanda said.
“She absolutely cherished her sisters as well as her nephew and soon to be brother in law. The siblings to these children that fight these fights, they fight that same fight, and the harsh reality is they are still here learning to live without them,” she said.
It has been difficult for the family these last few months, but Amanda said the family is grateful to live in a caring community.
“It’s tough, but I will say this — we are blessed to live in a community that has rallied around us, that has blessed us and that has loved us,” she said.
After Natalie was diagnosed, Amanda said, she and her husband, Jonathan, were able to spend every single day with their daughter without even having to worry about going to work.
“We were able to spend our time with Nat which was the most important thing. That’s the community we live in,” she said.
Never questioning her plight, Amanda said, “Natalie never asked ‘why her?’ she only wanted to show others the love of God and her faith.”
“She took it all with a smile and praised God the entire time,” Amanda added.
And it is this same faith that has continued to hold the McMillian family up.
“It is impossible to learn to live without a child without putting God first and Nat taught us how to do that, and I can tell anybody that walks this path, if you don’t walk it with God you will not make it, period,” she said.
During the fundraiser, the softball and baseball teams will be evenly divided to play a game of slow-pitch softball.
“The kids love this, and it is a great outreach for the community as well to get the kids doing something for someone other than just them,” McGivney said.
At the end of every inning, candy is handed out to all the children in costume and there is also a costume contest that includes players and the children who are in attendance.
Admission to the Halloween Spooktacular is $5, and free for ages 12 and younger with a costume.
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