Tom Glavine and his wife, Chris, are relentless in their roles with a grassroots organization that fights childhood cancer. Just ask his old Braves teammate John Smoltz. On the day of Smoltz's Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown this past July, the Glavines hit him up for some contributions.
"We brought three pitching rubbers and asked if we could swing by his room to sign a couple things," Chris says. "Tommy said he had a little bit of a blank stare. He was about to deliver the speech of his lifetime and Tom said, 'Hey, could you sign this?'"
That's a good example of the Glavines' dedication to CURE Childhood Cancer. They serve on the advisory board, and since 2005, Chris has hosted "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes," an annual luncheon that honors mothers with children who have cancer.
"We kind of pamper them for a day," Tom says.
The Glavines' connection with childhood cancer began in 2004. Jonathan Flaig, Chris' son from her first marriage, saw his classmate, Will Hennessy, get diagnosed with a form of cancer known as Ewing's sarcoma. Hennessy was 7.
Hennessy was diagnosed around the same time as another Atlanta youth, then-6-year-old Carter Martin. Hennessy and Martin bonded as they tried to beat Ewing's sarcoma together. Hennessy did. Martin did not. He passed away in 2006.
"The kid hadn't done anything," Chris says. "He was 6 years old. What had he done to deserve this disease?"
Shortly after Hennessy and Martin were diagnosed, Chris met Kristin Connor, whose 3-year-old Brandon had recently beat a tumor near his spine. In 2005, Connor moved foundations to CURE, and Chris showed an interest. She hosted the first "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes" that year. It raised more than $100,000.
"It wasn't acceptable to her and she wanted to do something about it," Tom says.
He was in New York with the Mets, sandwiched between his two Braves stints. The family stayed in Atlanta.
Connor became executive director of CURE in 2006, a position she has held ever since. She found a partner in Chris, whose charitable desire mirrored her husband's Cy Young grittiness.
"The Quiet Heroes was born out of desperation to do more," Chris says. "I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I followed this women's story. Her postings really resonated."
"Once we got involved, started following those boys and saw how little was being done and how devastating it was for the families, it was something my wife wanted to do something more about," Tom says.
Chris' involvement increases every year, while Tom has revved up his participation since his 2010 retirement. The Glavines added a second event in 2014, "Believe Ball." The Black Tie event returned in 2015 and raised $890,000.
"While I would prefer to go to an event in sweatpants, I guess there is a market for getting showered, and putting makeup on and wearing a gown and a black tux," Chris says.
The Glavines say their role with CURE is a 24/7 job. Before the Smoltz encounter, they once snagged Herschel Walker in a parking lot and swapped baseball autographed by Glavine for jerseys to auction off via eBay.
"He's going to be in a white truck and meet him on the side of Best Buy," she says, recalling her instructions to Tom. "Take the package and sign a couple baseballs and you'll be on your way."
Chris can drive her celebrity connections crazy.
"I might get under Greg Maddux's nerves a little, but he's always willing to sign the stuff, not without a little bit of razzing," Chris says.
Chris and Tom keep their focus on the task at hand. They both note "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes" and "Believe Ball" are not just their way of putting charity next to their name. The luncheon is designed to let moms step out of the cancer shadow for a brief time.
"These moms have only seen in each other in the hospital settings or the clinics," Chris says.
So she gives them new programming.
"As a parent, it's hard to talk to somebody who can't relate to what we're going through and I don't know how many of us really can relate to watching a child with cancer when you haven't lived that," Tom says.
The 11th annual "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes" will take place Sept. 19, smack in the middle of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The event is expected to draw 600 people (250 impacted mothers) at Atlanta's InterContinental Buckhead. "A Tribute to Our Quiet Heroes" has raised more than $3 million and honored more than 2,000 mothers.
"I do it mostly because I know the effect it has for people and on their lives," Tom says. "For childhood cancer, it's kind of the step child. Breast cancer get so much attention, prostate cancer gets so much attention and childhood cancer, we've all seen the ads with the bald kids and it pulls on our heart strings, but in reality, there's only four percent of federal funding that goes to childhood cancer. That is unacceptable to us."
Will Hennessy graduated high school in the spring. He is a reminder it is possible to beat childhood cancer. The Glavines hope that with more donations, that percentage will increase. Along the way, they salute the mothers.
"I'd love to see someone pick up the reigns and do something for the daddys," Chris says.
Is that a tip for Tom?
"I can't tell you how good it feels to have somebody come out of the blue and thank you or shake your hand in a grocery store and say thank you for all you're doing for CURE," Tom says. "They say my son or daughter had x and we lived a nightmare. It's gratifying to hear the appreciation those parents have because it's a tough fight."
Tallying 305 career wins was a tough fight for Tom. He battles for 306 alongside Chris and CURE.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.