By: Adam Duvall – Journal Star sports reporter

PEORIA — Notre Dame hit a home run in the first year of the Hits for the Cure campaign.

Members of the Irish softball team presented a check for $21,323.14 to the St. Jude Midwest Affiliate Clinic on Tuesday morning. Recent ND graduate Chloe Petersen founded the not-for-profit charity with the goal of raising money for St. Jude in hopes of finding a cure for childhood cancer.

“Chloe has just been working really, really hard on this,” ND coach Ed Olehy said. “It doesn’t take much to come up and realize how important it is. It’s fabulous, as far as I’m concerned.”

Petersen and her teammates took a tour, did arts and crafts with patients and had lunch as part of their two-hour visit. The two-time Journal Star All-Area first baseman spent up until age 6 in and out of hospitals, mostly at St. Jude being treated for a Wilms’ tumor, a malignant tumor in the kidney causing cancer.

During the tour, Petersen ran into one of her former physicians, Dr. Kay Saving. The pair shared a hug and some old memories before joining three more of Petersen’s former doctors and St. Jude staff members for a picture.

Coincidentally, Petersen met a little boy, Kacer, who is undergoing treatment for a Wilms’ tumor, at arts and crafts. He provided Petersen with an extra-long hug at the end of the day.
“I think it’s the most amazing thing to be able to give back, especially because I’m giving back to the exact place that gave to me,” said Petersen, who returns to St. Jude for yearly checkups.

How Hits for the Cure worked was, a person pledged an amount — whether 25 cents or $25 — for every hit the ND softball team, which posted 327 hits, got this season. All levels of the softball program as well as the Notre Dame varsity baseball team, which recorded 306 hits, and its lower levels also lent a hand this season.

This, however, isn’t the end for Hits for the Cure, as plans for expansion are in the works. Petersen says she wants the charity to include fellow members of the Big 12 Conference along with the Mid-Illini Conference.

With Petersen heading off to Kansas next week to start her college softball career, she’ll rely on her underclass teammates to step up in a big way. Junior-to-be Megan Kemp says she is ready to do whatever is necessary, especially after seeing firsthand what actually goes on at St. Jude.

“I’ll just try to help and keep this going, keep it growing and hopefully, try to make this a big thing that other schools do,” she said.

Adam Duvall can be reached at 686-3207 or Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.