Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. How much more American can you get this Fourth of July? I'm not sure if Andy Lipman will be eating those delicacies this holiday, but baseball is certainly on the agenda. That's because Andy will get to throw the first pitch at the Atlanta Braves game against the Chicago Cubs Thursday, July 5, at Turner Field.
What will make that day special for Andy is not just the rare opportunity to be on the field with the Braves but the fact that Andy shouldn't even be alive to do it. Andy has cystic fibrosis, an inherited, chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in generations past, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have extended life for children and adults with CF. Now in his late 30s, Andy dedicates his time to raising awareness of the disease through public speaking and his annual softball tournament, Wish for Wendy, named for a sister he didn't get to know.
"I knew I had a sister, but until I was 25, I had no idea how she died," Andy told me. "My mother finally revealed that she lost her life to cystic fibrosis after only 16 days."
So far, Wish for Wendy has raised over $1.5 million.
Last year, Andy was asked to speak at Chipper Jones' golf tournament. Andy's dad was also in attendance. One of the auction items that night was the chance to throw the first pitch at a Braves game. Andy's dad couldn't resist giving his son this wonderful gift, especially a son whom he never knew whether he'd be able to see grow into a man.
"The significance of throwing out the first pitch is that 25 years ago the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation gave me a chance to be an honorary batboy for the Braves," Andy explained. "I was 13 years old, and little did I know my parents were told when I was first diagnosed with CF at birth that I may not see my teens."
Now with two children of his own, Andy looks forward to having Avery and Ethan in attendance at the game, along with his wife, Andrea.
"My favorite thing about life is watching my children grow up," he said proudly. "I was never supposed to have children, so watching them mature brings special meaning to me."
"This isn't just about throwing a baseball," Andy added. "It's about defying odds."