Saving 2nd Base one shirt at a time

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Article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in next Friday’s edition.

The unique relationship between Save Second Base, which sells tee-shirts and other apparel with its logo, and the Kelly Rooney Foundation, which raises funds for local cancer foundations, is a story of philanthropy born in the wake of death, with a twist unlike most.

On July 11, 2006, Rooney lost a four year battle with breast cancer.

“She was always funny,” said Erin Dugery, Rooney’s sister.

Before she died, Rooney, the jokester she was, thought how the phrase ‘save second base’ and its teenage interpretation now had special meaning to her, days from becoming the victim of breast cancer, which stole her life, her family, her very womanhood.

So, in the throes of Stage IV breast cancer, but still quick to smile, that was what Rooney named a team in her honor at a cancer fundraising walk: ‘save second base.’

“Kelly had five kids, four girls and a boy, all young,” Dugery said. “When she knew she was dying, we asked her – we wanted a foundation – where do you want the money to go?”

Rooney told her sister that she didn’t want her four young girls to suffer the same fate.

So, using Rooney’s dark, albeit humorous, take on an old phrase, Dugery, and Kelly Day, a close friend of Rooney’s, launched a clothing line, complete with a bright pink tee shirt adorned with two baseballs strategically placed on its chest, to raise funds for cancer research.

“This is for people dealing with this terrible disease,” Dugery said. “To give them a lift, a smile, a wink.”

It started small enough, but then a funny thing happened.

The company was mentioned in the Periscope column of the Sept. 3, 2007 edition of Newsweek.

“We got orders from everywhere,” she said. “Australia, New Zealand… Canada, a lot of orders from the armed forces in Iraq.”

They’ve since been on CNN and ABC News, and were featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer last month.

Fifty percent of the company’s proceeds go to the foundation, started by Rooney’s husband, the rest to overhead and breastcancer.org, an organization with a mission to educate women about the disease. Last fall, the foundation pledged $500,000 for breast cancer research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, half of which has been collected already.

“It’s for a study targeted to women under 40,” she said. “Trying to figure out why the diagnoses keep getting younger.”

Save Second Base has additionally managed $40,000 of a $100,000 pledge to breastcancer.org.

“This is money that is going to a very emotional experience.”

In the coming weeks, the company is introducing a whole new clothing line on its Web site, www.save2ndbase.com.

“A lot of people give it as a gift to people who are going through treatment,” Dugery said. “People don’t know what to do.“It’s such a tribute to Kelly, her arms stretched so wide.”

Text appears as written by Christopher Wink for the Philadelphia Business Journal, before edited by staff, for the Feb. 29, 2008 edition.