Community rallies around teen battling cancer

06/14/2018 6:00 AM |

During each round of chemotherapy in Manhattan, Dylan Newman’s parents give him a fresh pack of baseball cards. 

Dylan, 14, who is battling Ewing’s sarcoma, has a wall filled with signed cards and baseballs in his room in Southold, said his parents, Todd and Tanya Newman. 

“That’s his thing,” Mr. Newman said. 

Baseball is a huge part of his life — he talks about it all the time —  but not just in the form of collecting memorabilia from his favorite players or as a Yankees fan. Dylan was one of only a few eighth-graders brought up to play on Southold High School’s varsity team this past spring as a starting third-baseman and leadoff hitter.

Since a mass that was later determined to be the bone cancer was found April 26, it’s been his main goal to get back on the field, Ms. Newman said. 

Dylan’s parents noticed he was an athlete early on, when he started playing in Little League. From there he played in school and on travel teams. His father was his travel coach for a few years. 

“When he started with baseball he really excelled then and then he just kept on it,” Ms. Newman said. 

Dylan showed promise, which was why he was brought up to varsity, said Southold High School baseball coach Greg Tulley.

“I know he’s excited to get back on the field, and we’re excited to get him back, too,” Mr. Tulley said. 

He’s played in tournaments all over — Cooperstown, Rehoboth Beach, Del., and the Cal Ripken diamonds in Maryland. The trips became family vacations joined with fellow players from Southold. 

The Newman family has hosted players from the North Fork Ospreys of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League — and Dylan goes to watch games when he’s up for it. 

He’s an all-around, talented player and teammate, said Brian Hansen, who’s given Dylan hitting lessons and whose son Luke, a senior on the Southold High School team, has signed to play college ball.

Dylan helps out at his baseball camps during the summer and is patient with younger players, Mr. Hansen said.

“He’s a kind-hearted kid who loves the game of baseball,” he said. “He breathes it and he’s good at it.”

Friends shaved their heads in support of Dylan the day of the event. (Credit: Jeremy Garretson)

Besides his parents and younger sister Kelsey, support for Dylan has been coming in from all directions. 

“The community’s been incredible,” Mr. Newman said. “Totally incredible. The support and the love they’re giving Dylan is mind-blowing.”

“It’s all over the place,” Ms. Newman said. 

For instance, the varsity baseball team, surprised Dylan at their last regular season game. Just before gametime, they removed their jerseys to reveal red shirts, all with “Newman” and his number, 5, on the back. 

It was a way to show Dylan the team had his back, Mr. Tulley said.

In a similar gesture, members of the junior high softball team all wore green hair ribbons with the number 5  for their last game of the season. Dylan’s parents and supporters have also been sporting green — his favorite color — on bracelets and T-shirts. 

In addition, a family friend set up a YouCaring page that raised more than $30,000, along with a slew of well-wishes, in a matter of weeks. 

“All we want to do is be with him, so it will help us,” Ms. Newman said. The Newmans stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan while Dylan receives treatments in the city. 

On June 7, the school organized the Dash for Dylan, a Spirit Day-style event with games like tug-of-war, at the Southold High School gym. There, Dylan and about a dozen of his friends debuted freshly shaved heads. Friends painted the number 5 on their heads, too. Before heading to the event, they had come over to the Newman house earlier, where a hairdresser was waiting to help out.

Teachers, classmates, members fire departments, police officers and Ospreys players helped to pack the gym, Ms. Newman said.

The Southold junior high softball team wore green ribbons at their last game of the season in support of their classmate. (Courtesy photo)

“It was a good night for us,” Mr. Newman said. 

Local business are pitching in, too. On Tuesday night, the North Fork Shack held a fundraiser to “pack the shack” with friends, food and music. 

Not long after Dylan’s diagnosis, the Newmans were surprised one day when they approached the counter at Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck and saw a donation jar next to the register.

“Our customers are amazing,” deli owner Wendy Zuhoski said. “Any time we put a collection jar out, it’s full. It’s nonstop.”

People don’t think twice about dropping in a dollar, she said — they jump in with both feet. 

“Every day it’s something new,” Mr. Newman said.

“Stuff you wouldn’t think about,” Ms. Newman added. “The meals getting delivered, offering to take us to the city, taking our daughter if she needs a ride.” 

“We’re so grateful,” Mr. Newman said.

Photo caption: Dylan Newman (center) surrounded by friends and family who packed the Southold High School gym during the ‘Dash for Dylan’ fundraiser May 31. (Credit: Jeremy Garretson)  

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