Diamondbacks Show Heart For Cancer Victim

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Parks and Rec will hold another group-led PATS hike Sept. 26 — this time at the Round Valley East Trail.

Whitney Heizer, a 2004 Payson High School graduate, is determined the cancer she is battling is not about to deter her love for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Knowing that, D-backs team brass is doing all they can to cheer up the 23-year-old.

The saga of Whitney’s recent personal connection with the pro team began Sept. 9 during a physical training session she was undergoing with medical staff at Phoenix St. Joseph’s hospital.

Whitney was pulled from the session by her sister, Lyndsey, who told her a visitor was waiting to see her.

The gracious visitor turned out to be Diamondbacks infielder Augie Ojeda, one of Whitney’s favorite players.

For the visit, Ojeda wore his Diamondbacks jersey and brought several gifts, including an autographed photo.

Whitney’s father, Don, a longtime Payson High School teacher and coach, says she was absolutely thrilled by the visit.

The stay, however, was cut a bit short by the hospital staff who wanted to return her to treatment and therapy.

“She told them, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got more important things to do. Augie Ojeda is here,’” Don said.  

Ojeda’s unexpected stopover came on the heels of Whitney receiving an autographed Gonzo shirt from former Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzales’ retirement celebration.

On the shirt, Gonzales wrote, “To Whitney, a true champion. My best wishes to you. Your friend, Luis Gonzales.”

Just two days after Ojeda’s visit, Whitney was dismissed from the hospital. One of the first things she did was to join with family and friends to attend a Diamondbacks game.

Prior to the game, she was an invited guest at a special celebration held at the Front Row Grill at Chase Field. Present were catcher Miguel Montoya, radio and TV announcer Darren Sutton, Ojeda and other Diamondback representatives.

During a giveaway, five of the seven members in Whitney’s party won prizes. Whitney’s winnings included a baseball autographed by Stephen Drew and dugout tickets to the next day’s game.

She and friends took in the game that evening and returned to Chase Field the following day to use the dugout tickets

When going to the games, Don usually tells his daughter he will drive as close as possible to the park to shorten her walk to their seats.

“But she says ‘No, park where we usually do. Walking will be part of my therapy,’” Don said.

Her father happily says her progress since being diagnosed is “amazing,” and she’s ready for her next rounds of treatment, which will include radiation.

I, like many other former and current teachers in Payson, had the privilege of having Whitney in class.

It was during those school days that we learned to respect Whitney’s emotional, physical and spiritual courage that we know will eventually lead to her beating this dreaded disease.

Upcoming Parks programs

• Bat Night with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 22. The program is for all ages and costs $5 per person. It will be held at the Parks & Recreation Office, 1000 W. Country Club Drive. Bat Biologist, Nancy Rennison will lead an evening of bat watching and listening at Green Valley Lake. Registration closes Sept. 17 and class size is limited.

• Payson Area Trails System Hike of Round Valley East Trail, 4.8 miles round-trip; starting at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 26.

This is a moderately difficult hike with one very steep hill at the beginning of the hike and loose rocks periodically. Pre-registration is preferred, but can be done on-site prior to the hike. Meet at the Round Valley East trail access, 1.5 miles east of Highway 87 on Phoenix Street onto Gibson Court. There is no fee for the hike.

For more details, call (928) 474-5242, extension 7.

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