MINNEAPOLIS -- Cheri Krejci was the primary caregiver for her parents as they endured battles with cancer. Her father lived only a month after he was diagnosed; her mother lived nine years after she first learned about her condition.
So Krejci knew what she was up against when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, about six weeks after her mom passed away.
But after a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment, Krejci is now cancer-free. She celebrated Mothers' Day on Sunday as the Twins' Honorary Bat Girl.
Krejci was honored on the field before Sunday's game against the Orioles, and her family got to hang out by the dugout before she was introduced on the scoreboard and threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
"I was really nervous, but it was really fun, very exciting," Krejci said. "Beautiful day at Target Field and my family is here; I couldn't have asked for a nicer day."
In her small Blooming Prairie, Minn., community, Krejci is a member of a group that raises funds year-round for cancer. Those efforts include a two-day fundraiser and a city-wide "pink-out." The group raised $55,000 last year for cancer research, which she said all stays in Minnesota. All that money from the little town of just 2,000 residents.
The group gives most of the research money to the Mayo Clinic and the Hormel Institute for cancer research, a research unit at the University of Minnesota's graduate school.
Krejci is also the head of the Blooming Prairie Cancer Group, which raises money to give to families afflicted by cancer for daily necessities like gas and groceries.
"It's something that's just really important to me," Krejci said. "In hopes that someday, so many people won't have to be diagnosed with cancer and die of cancer, and families don't have to go through what we had to go through."
For that reason, she said, she also volunteers for hospice care.
"If I can help the families that have to deal with that, that's what I do," Krejci said.
Her demonstration of selflessness and her own personal victory over cancer prompted Krejci's sister, Cindy Owen, to nominate her.
"This is a tireless job, but I know that my sister is determined to do her part to help find a cure," Owen said in her nomination letter. "She truly is a hero to all those that know her."
Major League Baseball introduced the Honorary Bat Girl program in 2009 as part of the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative. Fans across the country share their inspirational stories that provide hope and motivation in the fight against breast cancer. In all 30 parks, an Honorary Bat Girl is selected by a combination of fan votes and input from a panel that includes several Major League players.
Each Honorary Bat Girl is given pink MLB merchandise, which Krejci said will work well in fundraising auctions.
"It's awesome. I think it brings huge awareness, it brings more people together," Krejci said of the Honorary Bat Girl program. "It's a wonderful experience, and I thank Major League Baseball. It's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less