As players, coaches, and parents approached the East Plymouth Valley Park playing fields for the opening day of little league baseball Saturday, they passed a bright yellow table with about a dozen youngsters selling lemonade.
And on that table sat a large plastic jar, a pile of dollar bills growing quickly inside, and a black and white photo of an eight-year-old boy smiling at passersby.
That boy was Nick Mincarelli, the Plymouth Elementary School third-grader who tragically lost his three-year battle with cancer on March 12, 2012. But that pile of money and those students were all there in his memory, moving the fight against cancer one day closer to the time when no child will lose their life to the disease.
"This day has been awesome, the kids are doing a great job," said Michelle Weidamoyer, a teacher at Plymouth Elementary. "They raised a lot of money. We've had money coming in all week, and I don't even know the amount they have in the jar today."
Weidamoyer helps lead the "Spirit Team," a group of 53 third grade volunteers who wish to better their school and community. The team meets once a month to plan activities, which have included everything from PBJ and toy drives for children, candy drives for troops overseas, the creation of coloring books for hospitalized children, and more.
"We started the team last year and we came up with this motto of spreading kindness throughout our school and community," said Lauren Colantonio, also a teacher at Plymouth. "We set certain goals, like politeness and kindness, and then hold different initiatives."
Colantino said that the team is participating in Alex's Lemonade Stand, a nation-wide initiative to defeat childhood cancer, for the second straight year. But while filling out this year's paperwork, the teachers asked the students whose name they should put down in the dedication box.
"They wanted to honor Nick, and it was completely unanimous between the entire Spirit Team," said Weidamoyer.
"We said this was going to be for pediatric cancer and we need to choose one person who touches our whole group, and every hand shot up," said Colantonio. "They were cheering 'let's do it for Nick.'"
And so months later on a perfect, sunny day, surrounded by classmates and ball-playing children, the picture of Nick sat as a reminder of just how precious life is, and how we need to help one another.
"He was such a giving person-- always caring about the other kids and not wanting them to be afraid," said Colantonio. "That was just his spirit."
Learn more about Nick at HeroesForNick.org.