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Cards offer unique experience in charity auction

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- According to the American Cancer Society, about two in every five Americans will get some form of cancer during their lifetimes. For a small group of women working in front-office positions within Major League Baseball, the recent impact of cancer has been much more startling.

Over the last four years, three women holding jobs in the media-relations departments for three different MLB clubs have been diagnosed with cancer. Two -- Monica Barlow (lung cancer) of the Orioles and Shannon Forde (breast cancer) of the Mets -- are still in the midst of their personal battles with the disease.

Melody Yount, the Cardinals' media-relations manager, is now cancer free following a two-year battle with breast cancer that included a startling recurrence after doctors believed she had beaten it. An additional surgery followed, and Yount has been in remission since August 2011.

Yount, along with the fraternity of media-relations folks in MLB, have stepped up to be a support for Barlow and Forde and everyone else they know who has been impacted by cancer. Out of those efforts came the idea to jointly organize a baseball-wide auction, which was announced on Monday in Nashville by public-relations personnel and MLB staff.

As a result, these Winter Meetings include an Auction to benefit Stand Up To Cancer, which MLB has supported since 2008 as founding sponsor. Bidding closes at 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday, with more than 70 baseball-related experiences ranging from clubhouse tours by players to lunches with general managers to team bus rides to meet-and-greets with 14 Hall of Fame players.

Included among the fan experiences in the auction is a chance to experience the Cardinals' photo day during Spring Training.

The package includes hotel accommodations at the Embassy Suites in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., which is the Cardinals' team hotel each spring. The winning bidder will be invited to the Cardinals' Spring Training complex on Feb. 19, to participate in photo day with Cardinals players, who will be having their photos snapped by production crews, stadium scoreboard operators, baseball card companies and the team photographer.

The experience also includes a personalized authentic Cardinals jersey for the winning individual to keep, as well as an opportunity to watch the Cardinals' workout later that morning. The Cardinals team photographer will also present the winning bidder with his or her own photo.

"Because we're so close to the players and the game, we felt that we have an opportunity to maybe create some really neat experiences to raise money for cancer research," Yount said. "It's something that all the teams rallied around because it seemed like we had been touched by us so much. And it's not only about how much money can be raised, but it's also an opportunity to raise awareness about cancer."

Yount's diagnosis came in September 2009, the same month that Barlow learned she had cancer. The news came as a shock to Yount, now 39, who had no history of breast cancer in her immediate family.

Over the next 12 months, she underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. By August 2010, her cancer was thought to be in remission. A routine checkup the next summer, however, showed that it had returned. Her fight continued.

"For me, it's been more of an eye-opener for how much cancer is out there," Yount said. "You definitely hear about it and everyone knows someone who has had cancer. But for me, once I had it, it was just amazing to me to see the number of people I would hear about who were in the same situation. It has given me a different outlook, and I have learned to let go of things that don't matter."

At one point, that included her hair, which she asked Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter to shave off when it began falling out. The two met at Busch Stadium after the '09 season and Carpenter did the honors.

"He was great," Yount said. "I really appreciated him doing it. Looking back on it, I see how awkward that was for me to request for him. But it didn't bother me. I saw it as part of the process and something that had to be done. It's kind of a neat friendship that we have developed, and that experience is probably one of the biggest reasons why."

Having successfully won her battle against cancer, Yount has become a pivotal supporter for others in their current fights. Understanding the toll her profession takes on even the healthiest people, Yount has kept an open line of communication with Forde and Barlow in order to help them navigate through what she already has.

Yount also realizes she is among the most fortunate. The Cardinals' front office has been impact by cancer extensively in recent years. Five members of the organization have been diagnosed since the club moved to its new ballpark in 2006. Two longtime employees -- Karen Brown and Marty Hendin -- have since passed away.

The organization was struck again this past October, when outfielder Matt Holliday revealed that his mother, Kathy, had been diagnosed with colon cancer during the postseason.

St. Louis Cardinals