BLOSSVALE — For 16-year-old Derek Holmes, life often revolved around his passion for baseball.
The Blossvale teen had been playing baseball since he was six, working his way up from T-ball and Little League to American Legion and travel ball — with the dream of someday making it to the major leagues one day, but that dream became complicated when he was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, in February 2018.
The diagnosis came as a total shock to the Holmes family.
“We thought he had [mononucleosis],” mother Michelle Holmes said, adding that the family was going through some stressful times when the diagnosis came.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He’s a strong, active kid. He’s outside and on the baseball field every day. That all came to a halt. That was awful.”
For the next year, Derek would undergo a variety of treatments and was forced to put his love of sports and baseball to the side for the time being.
Derek plays baseball at Camden Central High School and over the summer, plays American Legion Baseball. It has always been one of his dreams growing up to turn the family’s backyard pole barn into an indoor sports facility.
When the chance for a Make-A-Wish Central New York opportunity became a reality, the choice of a wish for the teen was clear – creation of the indoor facility where he and his Blue Devil teammates could work on crushing fastballs, draining jumpers and simply hanging out.
Make-A-Wish staff and volunteers coordinated a crew of workers who donated and discounted products and time. Work on the inside of the 80-foot by 40-foot pole barn began in January 2020 and concrete flooring was poured in August. Final touches were recently made, and Michele diligently kept her son from peeking inside.
On Friday, Derek was finally shown the new facility. It’s equipped with batting cages, a pitching mound, pitching machine, basketball nets for half-court games, and even has electricity and heating for year-round use.
Immediately, Derek stepped up to the plate and after a quick warm-up, got to swinging. After the pitching machine was empty, Derek said it was everything he had ever wanted.
“I see myself coming out here every day,” Derek said. His friends and teammates were there with the Make-A-Wish volunteers and staff to surprise him and Derek’s mother said she foresees many long, but fun, nights for Derek and company in the future. “I might have to bring a few cots out [to the barn],” she said with a laugh.
Make-A-Wish also gifted Derek with a few buckets of balls, sporting equipment, and a photo of New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, signed by “The Sandman” himself.
Derek is currently in remission and on maintenance treatment and his mother said his prognosis is looking good.
“He’ll be done May 2021,” Holmes said. “Everything’s looking great. He’ll have two more spinal tap treatments and he takes oral chemotherapy every day. His doctor said everything looks great, so we’ll just keep pushing forward.”
Holmes was amazed by the work of the Make-A-Wish program and thankful for everything they done.
Derek’s wish was made possible by support from the ISA Foundation, a non profit organization, the Make-A-Wish Central New York .
Make-A-Wish officials extended gratitude to everyone who helped make Derek’s wish a reality, including Brian Gaetano and Gaetano Construction, Sportsfield Specialties, Bruce Electric, On Deck Sports, Beacon Athletics, SporTurf, McQuade & Bannigan, Clemente Fane Concrete, JLM Concrete Pumping, and A&P Master Images.
To learn more about Make-A-Wish Central New York and the life-changing wishes granted, visit cny.wish.org