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Blue Jays great Roy Halladay remembered for generosity off the field

Family who met late pitcher through ‘Doc’s Box’ program for sick kids calls pitcher’s ‘true legacy’ is what he did for kids ‘in dire need of an escape.’

The McFadyn family remembers Roy Halladay for the kindness he showed their family, and particularly to Isaac, their son who has the rare disease MPS VI.

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The McFadyn family remembers Roy Halladay for the kindness he showed their family, and particularly to Isaac, their son who has the rare disease MPS VI.

Isaac McFadyen was just five years old when he threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Blue Jays game in 2008.

An avid baseball fan, the now 13-year-old knows pitching in the Rogers Centre is something he’ll never forget.

Likewise he’ll remember the man who made it happen — Roy “Doc” Halladay, the beloved former Blue Jays pitcher who died Tuesday at the age of 40 in a plane crash.

Halladay’s accomplishments on the diamond are well known to baseball fans. His generosity off the field is just as memorable to those whose lives he touched.

Halladay used his platform as a famous baseball player to help give young people like Isaac opportunities.

“On the field he may have seemed really focused on the game but off the field he was really kind and generous also,” Isaac told the Star on Wednesday.

Isaac was diagnosed with the rare enzyme deficiency syndrome MPS VI in 2005, a devastating development that prompted his family to dedicate their lives to trying to find a cure by founding the “Isaac Foundation.” Halladay met Isaac when the boy was very young, and quickly became a champion of their cause.

Halladay kept up a number of community initiatives throughout his time as a Blue Jay between 1998-2009. He and his wife Brandy ran the program “Doc’s Box” where the couple hosted sick children to watch Toronto games in a private box. He also donated $100,000 per year to the Jays Care foundation as part of his contract with the club.

“It’s always a fun and memorable experience for our patients and their families to have the opportunity to cheer on and meet their sports heroes,” said Karima Karmali, director for the centre for innovation and excellence in child and family-centred care at SickKids.

“Roy Halladay was a great friend to SickKids and put smiles on many children’s faces. He will be missed.”

Isaac and his family were invited to “Doc’s Box” in 2008, where they were immediately struck by how warm and welcoming Halladay and his wife were.

“Isaac and (his little brother) Gabriel were treated like all-stars, (Halladay) spent lots of time with them,” Isaac’s dad Andrew said. “It just seemed that Isaac and Roy hit it off, and Isaac and Brandy. They really took to him.”

“I think his true legacy is what he left for kids who are in dire need of an escape,” he said.

Isaac and his family were invited to “Doc’s Box” in 2008, where they were immediately struck by how warm and welcoming Halladay and his wife were.

Contributed

Isaac and his family were invited to “Doc’s Box” in 2008, where they were immediately struck by how warm and welcoming Halladay and his wife were.

After their initial meeting the families stayed in touch, and when Halladay won the George Gross/Toronto Sun sportsperson of the year award for his humanitarian efforts in 2008, he selected the Isaac Foundation as the charity for the $1,000 donation to be made in his name. He also matched the funds out of his own pocket, and invited Isaac to throw the first pitch at a game.

“I was a little scared but I was also excited,” Isaac said of that moment. He remembers a video telling the story of his diagnosis going up on the Jumbotron before the game.

At that point, the Isaac Foundation was in its infancy. Determined as they were to find a cure for Isaac, Andrew said the family would have continued to painstakingly raise “a dollar here and a dollar there” through barbeques. But both Roy and Brandy Halladay really helped raise their profile and get their message out.

Now the foundation is well-established and going strong in the fight against rare diseases. They have a fundraising gala coming up this weekend in Cobourg, for example. Andrew said the Halladays were “wonderful people” for the help they gave when they were starting out.

Even after Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, he stayed in touched with the McFadyens, inviting them out to a game there in 2010.

Isaac said he was very sad to hear the baseball hero he also considered a friend had passed away, and that he hopes Halladay’s selfless spirit will be remembered.

“I just don’t want him to be that statistic that he pitched x number of perfect games,” said the older McFadyen. “I think that his true story is his love of making others feel special. Primarily it was kids that were battling critical and life-threatening illnesses.”

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