USF pediatrician connects young Rays fans with donated World Series tickets

Dr. John Curran with Tampa Bay Rays fans Justin Richards, left, and Sean Newkirk, right, patients at the USF Health Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost the opening game of the World Series Wednesday night, but Justin Richards was still thrilled to be in the audience of cowbell-clanging fans.

“Justin was so excited – he loved being there. He didn’t get to bed until 2 in the morning, but he still got up Thursday and went to school!” said his mother Alice Richards.

Justin, 12, and Sean Newkirk, 18 – both patients at the USF Health Cystic Fibrosis Clinic — managed to score free tickets to the big game with the help of John Curran, MD, professor of pediatrics and associate vice president for Faculty and Academic Affairs at USF Health. The young Rays fans are both patients of Bruce Schnapf of the USF Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Curran, a board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was approached by the Academy to identify two children with specific chronic illnesses from the Children’s Medical Services program at USF Health to receive the free tickets. The tickets were donated by Matt Bubala, host of the nationally syndicated Good Parenting radio show. Based in Chicago, Bubala had purchased a block of World Series tickets in advance with the hope that his beloved Chicago Cubs team might make it to the series. He wanted to do something good with the leftover tickets to benefit children, so he contacted the Academy’s public relations staff and they contacted Dr. Curran.

Justin was accompanied to the game by his father, and Sean went with his aunt. They sat in the same right field section as Bubala at Tropicana Field. As an unexpected bonus, Justin managed to snag a baseball from one of the Philadelphia Phillies players at batting practice before the game.

“We were very appreciative for the tickets as the children are from families with very real financial constraints and would not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend the game,” Dr. Curran said.

Dr. Curran supervises Florida’s Tampa Bay region of CMS, a Title V program for children with special health care needs. CMS partners with USF Health to provide care across the region, which encompasses Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties.

– Story by Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications
– Photo by Eric Younghans