NEW YORK -- When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago, Stefanie Lesnik knew she would have to battle like never before in her life. What she could not have realized was how much help she would receive along the way.
Friends came to Lesnik's Bernardsville, N.J., house offering home-cooked meals. Complete strangers did the same. One of her son's classmates organized a fundraiser selling Rainbow Loom bracelets, ultimately raising $5,400 in a month for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation.
"I was blown away by that," said Lesnik, who served as the Mets' Honorary Bat Girl for Sunday's Mother's Day game against the Phillies. "My town and my friends and my family have been remarkable."
Each year, Major League Baseball recognizes baseball fans in all 30 MLB communities who have been affected by breast cancer, and who demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease. Fans across the league share their inspirational stories in the fight against breast cancer, as well as the reasons why they or their nominees should represent their favorite teams.
Fans helped select this year's winners in tandem with a guest judging panel including Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, country music star Jason Aldean and MLB Network reporter Sam Ryan. Winners such as Lesnik took part in pregame activities at their respective parks Sunday, and were honored during on-field ceremonies.
Lesnik recalled that when her mother found out about the program, "She was like, 'I'm so entering you in this.'" And so it came to be that Lesnik was on the field Sunday, meeting Mets players and sharing her story.
For Lesnik, the mother of two young boys, the experience was nearly as incredible as the support of her community. As 10-year-old Harrison and 8-year-old Matthew scurried about trying to score autographs from players, Lesnik soaked in the scene with her husband, Jonathan.
It was less than a year ago that during a routine mammogram, Lesnik's doctor noticed something concerning enough to order a biopsy. The doctor wanted it done that day, but it happened to be Harrison's 10th birthday. He and his friends were waiting for ice cream.
So Lesnik returned four days later to learn that she had developed Stage 1 breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy, finishing her radiation treatment last month. As she stood on the field Sunday thinking about all the other breast-cancer patients involved in MLB's Honorary Bat Girl program, Lesnik talked about looking forward to a cancer-free life.
"When I read some of these other women's stories, I was like, 'I can't believe I won,'" Lesnik said. "I'm so flattered and so honored that they chose me to be the Bat Girl for the Mets. These are my Mets."