The Gig Harbor Little League community will host a “Jubilee” day in honor of Masen Lopes, a 7-year-old who recently passed away after a three-year battle with brain cancer.
On Saturday, May 7, at the Gig Harbor Little League fields off Burnham Drive, there will be a BBQ dinner, a home run derby and other games, in honor of Masen, who loved the game of baseball.
For Tammi Barber, who’s acting as the Lopes family’s representative and event coordinator, it was important to keep the event as lighthearted as possible. They’re calling it a “Jubilee” because Masen’s favorite author was Dr. Suess.
“(Masen’s mother, Kainani Lopes) wanted to keep it fun and festive and give the community a chance to gather before we have more of a formal ceremony,” Barber said.
One of the field’s backstops will be turned into somewhat of a permanent memorial for Masen. Guests will be permitted to bring a lock with a written message and lock it on the chain-link fence behind home plate. At the end of the evening, Masen’s ashes will be brought to the mound, and select guests in attendance will offer a few words about Masen’s impact on their lives, including Kainani.
“I don’t know how she’s going to do it,” Barber said. “She just wants to thank people for rallying around the family.”
Gig Harbor Little League indeed rallied around Masen, who was diagnosed in 2013 with Anaplastic astocytoma, a type of brain cancer. Kainani Lopes lost her husband, Lloyd, to brain cancer in January 2013. At a Tacoma Rainiers game last year, Masen not only got to throw out the first pitch, but also got a tour of the clubhouse before the game and custom jerseys, along with the rest of his family. When Masen went out to throw the first pitch, he gave the crowd a show.
“He leaned over, just like a pitcher would, and he shook off a sign,” said Ron Brentin, Gig Harbor Little League’s director of operations and facilities. “The whole place just went crazy. He threw a perfect pitch. It was a strike. I’ll just never forget that. The whole crowd gave him a standing ovation.”
What those who met Masen remember most about him was his boundless energy and enthusiasm for life — even in spite of exhausting treatments and a gloomy prognosis.
“I just remember he lived every minute of every day,” Barber said. “He never let his situation get him down. Three days or so after his brain surgery, he was cheering kids on in the dugout. I think a big part of that was how Kai(nani) treated him. She never treated him like a sick child. It’s admirable. There was no stopping Masen. He was a go-getter.”
The night after Masen passed away, Gig Harbor Little League wanted to cancel all of the games for the day. But Kainani requested that the show go on.
“Her boys, (Rylen, 11, and Leland, 10) were able to play,” Barber said. “It was just a really somber night. It was just so humbling to see her there. It really just shows what kind of a support system she’s been able to have within this community. People have just rallied around her.”
There might even be fireworks at the Jubilee, depending on if the permit process can be completed in time. The event begins at 6 p.m. Event organizers have requested that guests don’t bring baseball equipment, as some will be provided.
Those wishing to help the Lopes family financially can donate directly to the Lopes’ PayPal account, using the email Kainanil9561@gmail.com.
For more information, visit FightforMasen.com.