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Courageous battle spurs community into action

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Think of a typical 13-year old boy and you might imagine a teenager diving into the start of adolescence with a combination of zeal, a dash of irreverent humor and a boundless supply of energy. You probably wouldn’t think of one battling cancer for the second time in his life. Yet today, Flower Mound resident Riley Hall faces that courageous fight.

Diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the start of this year, the Bridlewood teen underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments which seemed to remove all traces of cancerous cells. However, the end of July saw Riley experiencing fevers and night sweats, leading to a diagnosis of recurrent Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

With more chemo and radiation treatments, he will soon be admitted into a month-long hospital visit to undergo the most aggressive portion of his treatment to eradicate his bone marrow and place stem cells back in his body to jumpstart his immune system.

As a player on the Flower Mound 13U Rattlers baseball team, Riley’s teammates and their families immediately sprang into action.

Anthony and Kelli Calabrese of Flower Mound, parents of one of Riley’s teammates, started a Facebook page to create awareness of Riley’s plight and collect funds and raffle items for a drawing on Dec. 6. Other parents planned several fundraisers, calling their combined efforts “Rattlers Rally for Riley.”

Rattlers coach, former Texas Rangers pitcher Dan Smith, called on his connections at the Rangers organization to donate player-signed memorabilia.

Rallying to win a game is one thing, but rallying around a fallen teammate is something even more special.

“With these boys, it’s not about the trophies,” said Anthony Calabrese. “They’re learning life lessons and their parents have been great role models, showing what you do when something happens to one of your own.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg (or snow cone, Riley’s favorite). As awareness grew past the baseball team, the organizers renamed their cause “Rally for Riley”. In the works are a men’s poker tournament, wrist band sales and T-shirt sales at Downing Middle School. Recently, the Calabreses hosted a free haircut event at their house which allowed Rattlers teammates and anyone else to shave their head to show support for Riley.

“We are so blessed to have the community and the school involved in this, it is amazing,” Calabrese said.

In addition, local businesses rallied to the cause. On Nov. 4, Flower Mound’s two Chili’s restaurant locations donated 20-percent of their sales to the cause. A similar event is planned at Pazzo Pizza in Highland Village on Nov. 11 and Nov. 18 at Texas Roadhouse.

“I think our message is, be grateful for what you have and help people that aren’t as fortunate when they face something like this,” Calabrese said.

For more details or to make a donation or contribute raffle item, please visit the Rally for Riley Facebook page.

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