Striking Out Cancer In September

Striking Out Cancer In September

There are some lights so bright it is impossible they go unseen. Stadium lights, for instance, or the porch light left on when we are awaiting a relative’s later-than-scheduled arrival at our home. There are also the less intrusive but equally important lights- the ones that shimmer in the background yet are so beneficial to our lives: nightlights that make our children feel safe at night, small walkway lights that guide us after the sun sets, helping us to find our way through darkness. No, they aren’t as front-and-center as the others but without them, our lives would not be nearly as bright. Memphian Caitlin Doyle Motte falls in that latter category and her work with the foundation she and her husband Jason Motte founded is shining a light onto and into many lives.

September is a big month for cancer awareness: it is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Awareness month, Leukemia Awareness month, and Prostate Cancer Awareness month to name a few (for the full list please visit The month also begins with a big day for the Jason Motte Foundation: in 2013 it designated September 2 as “Strike Out Cancer Day” and its efforts are supported by every team in the league. Players from all Major League Baseball teams wear t-shirts in their team colors featuring a backward K (the baseball symbol for a strikeout) atop the word “cancer.” And though you may readily recognize those wearing these t-shirts, a major force behind the movement may be standing next to you at a local coffee shop without you ever realizing it.

In December of 2011 Caitlin’s grandfather, Lynn Doyle, passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. While he was a patient at West Clinic (now the West Cancer Center), Jason and Caitlin made the decision that they would give back in whatever way they could to the place that fought so hard for the survival of her grandfather and countless others. When Mr. Doyle got wind of their plans he had one request: “if you’re going to do something, don’t do it halfway.” Caitlin said they moved full speed ahead and seldom looked back, except to remind themselves of a few crucial lessons learned along the way.

Just a few months prior to Mr. Doyle’s death, in October 2011, two events transpired that would be the impetus to her life changing forever; these two events would be what brought his words to fruition, before they were even spoken. On October 28, Jason won a World Series title with the St. Louis Cardinals. On October 29, 7-year-old Brandt Ballenger was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor (a pediatric kidney cancer.) Caitlin explains that the relationship between Jason and Brandt began with a simple request from Brandt’s father that he hold a “Team Brandt” sign for the world to see and evolved into a beautifully complex friendship between two people a generation apart but with a bond that could not have been more flawlessly created.

For her, the words her grandfather spoke gave them purpose and “Brandt gave us a little more direction.” She also reflects on the notion that at any given time, in any given place in our world, while one person is celebrating their highest high, another is trying to cope with their lowest low. A World Series win and a child’s cancer diagnosis one day apart showed her both the strength and fragility of life on this earth and she has chosen, as a wife, mother, and philanthropist through her work with the Jason Motte Foundation, to live her life being a light that soothes fears and helps show the way when darkness is all around.    

No one said pursuing our purpose would be without pain, or that finding our direction would be without disappointments. Jason underwent major, season-ending surgery in May 2013. Brandt received his angel wings in July 2013. Caitlin watched her husband shuttle between rehab and his young friend’s hospital room, all the while continuing to honor that profound phrase: “if you’re going to do something, don’t do it halfway.” And she continued working every day, in some capacity, to expand their foundation’s reach.  What began in 2011 as a fundraising auction at Opera Memphis with about 100 attendees has grown to an annual event that, last year with the foundation’s Cornhole Challenge, raised over $1,000,000.    

Sometimes bold, bright lights are good to have around. Other times, the softest of illuminations can make the greater impact. I suspect that Caitlin is just fine being a small candle in the window that both welcomes those who are fighting the battle of their lives and serves as a reminder that miracles do happen, even if they don’t appear the way we initially envisioned them to be.

For more information on the Jason Motte Foundation, please visit


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