Chris Carroll was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in his early teens. For a long time, he was in denial. He tried to hide the disease from anyone who wasn’t close family or friends. He was suffering. It was bad enough that another aspect of his life brought about a different kind of pain.
“Being a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan,” Carroll joked, “I’ve suffered enough in my life.”
With encouragement from his wife Joy, Carroll, a soon-to-be father of two, joined the Delaware Valley chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and became an ambassador. His newfound connection to the community gave him a different outlook.
“Truly, as I sit here, I’m the luckiest man alive,” Carroll said. “I have a huge, awesome family.”
Through the local MDA chapter, Carroll connected with Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins and his wife Jayme, whose involvement with muscular dystrophy goes way back.
Rhys needed 50 hours of community service to graduate from high school. He volunteered as a counselor at a Northern California summer camp exclusively for kids living with neuromuscular diseases and was paired with a boy named Charlie. What was a requirement to walk in graduation quickly became a lifelong passion. Rhys recalled when he observed Charlie floating about in the pool with a smile on his face, saying it was “a core memory.”
Rhys would later recruit Jayme to be a counselor at a future camp and “the rest was history.”
History, of course, could refer to many things. The couple married in 2019. A couple years before, Jayme and Rhys connected with the local MDA chapter when he was called up to the big leagues. After participating in numerous events, raising thousands of dollars and hosting families through the MDA at Phillies games throughout his six-year big league career, it all culminated in the two hosting the inaugural “Go Yard” event at Yards Brewing Company in Northern Liberties on Sunday.
“I can tell you when I first went as a camp counselor, I didn’t think that this would be the end game,” Rhys told Phillies Nation. “It’s a little bit of a full circle moment.”
Speaking of full circle moments, Jayme was happy to reflect on the journey with Rhys.
“He’s always been so thoughtful, kind and caring,” Jayme said about Rhys. “So it doesn’t surprise me that we’re here standing here hosting this event because it’s just always been who he is.”
J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Aaron Nola, Corey Knebel, Kyle Gibson and Brad Hand, along with numerous Phillies coaches and executives, came out that night to support their teammate and his cause. The intimate event was a who’s who of important names within the Phillies organization. John Middleton, Dave Dombrowski, Sam Fuld and Rob Thomson were there. Even Larry Bowa was in attendance.
Rhys said he was “blown away” by the support from both the city and the Phillies organization.
“I think it just speaks to what Philadelphia as a community does to its athletes,” Rhys said. “It kind of rubs off. Secondly, it kind of speaks to the Phillies, really. They’re such a family-oriented organization. I’m sure you’ve heard that over and over and over again, but they just put such an emphasis on making some sort of impact in the community or within our Phillies community. Although we didn’t know what we were going to get tonight from the Phillies in terms of people being here, definitely not surprised.”
One of the highlights of the night came when acting auctioneer and event moderator Tom McCarthy facilitated the bidding for a future golf outing with Rhys. Knebel and Schwarber traded bids, with the final total reaching $5,000. Knebel was declared the winner, but Schwarber slightly raised his hand for $5,500 at the last second. Some conversation took place and it was decided that both Knebel and Schwarber would donate $5,000 each to MDA Philly and will tee off with Hoskins at a future date.
Dombrowski won a separate bidding for a suite at a Flyers game while Realmuto came out on top to win a custom suit. Both won their respective items at $2,500. All the funds raised during the live and silent auction were matched by the Middleton family.
The money raised on Sunday will fund research towards finding a cure for the disease as well as care centers and the same summer camps that Jayme and Rhys volunteered at in the past. MDA executive director Amanda Sweet said one of the organization’s goals is to cover the cost of camp for all attendees nationwide. The MDA is hosting in-person camps for the first time in three years.
“We as athletes are given a platform,” Rhys said. “Just unexpectedly. … We get so much support from the Philadelphia community, obviously with what the fans do within the stadium, but just the support that we get outside of the stadium to that it’s silly of us that we wouldn’t try to do what we can to impact the community in a positive way in some sort of manner. We’ve chosen the MDA route as our main source of trying to impact the community. I just think it’s silly if we don’t just because of the platform that we’re given.”
It’s not much of a coincidence that Hoskins hit a walk-off double the Monday after “Go Yard.” During his speech at the beginning of the night, Carroll directed a message to the eight Phillies players in the room that have direct control over whether or not he “suffers” as a Phillies fan.
“There’s a few people in this room that can change that suffering. No pressure. Nine games is enough,” Carroll said in reference to the Phillies’ nine-game winning streak that was snapped on Sunday.
It turns out, his friend Rhys was up for the challenge.
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