Mother's Day about giving back to McCanns

May 9th, 2021

NEW YORK -- For seven weeks after their twin boys were born in December 2017, James and Jessica McCann essentially lived at the Vanderbilt Children’s Neonatology Intensive Care Clinics (NICU) in Nashville, Tenn. Christian and Kane McCann were born prematurely at 30 weeks. The McCanns spent Christmas and New Year’s at the NICU. They not only experienced the emotions of their own situation, but they saw how many other families were going through similar things.

That year, the McCanns made a pact. Every Mother’s Day, they would donate to help mothers in a local NICU near where James was playing. On Father’s Day, they would seek out fathers in need of help. On Opening Day and around the holidays, they would continue to provide aid through donations of both money and time.

“The Lord just placed it on our hearts that this is where we wanted to continually give back,” said , who signed a four-year deal to join the Mets this winter.

So it came to be that James and Jessica McCann decided to contribute to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center on the border of Queens and Nassau Counties -- a facility that was renamed in 2010 after future Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife, Alex, donated $50 million for an expansion of pediatric care. Having experienced firsthand what those sorts of contributions can do, the McCanns have taken it upon themselves to continue the tradition of giving. Since moving to New York in April, they have donated 106 gift cards worth $50 apiece to patients in the NICU. On Mother’s Day, they plan to buy breakfast for doctors and nurses in the unit.

Earlier this week, the McCanns also took time to chat with Honorary Bat Girl Stephanie Schmidt, a Cohen’s Children’s NICU nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant, ultimately delivering her baby at 35 weeks. Jessica plans to spend more time on Sunday with Schmidt and the Mets’ other Honorary Bat Girl, Jackie Barber, a nurse at North Shore University Hospital who received chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for breast cancer while simultaneously taking care of her 5-year-old autistic son.

Stories like those remind the McCanns of their own time in the NICU.

“We just felt so much emotion being in it for so long,” Jessica said. “You don’t know what it’s like to go home from the hospital after delivering the baby, or babies in our case. There are just so many challenges emotionally. So being able to give back now, it’s just such a rewarding feeling, because we know a little bit about what those families are going through.”

“There’s no question that individuals who have been affected directly by something personal … to them, it’s so wonderful to be able to give back to that particular group,” said Dr. Charles Schleien, the chairman of pediatric services at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Canter. “Whether it’s a hospital, a division, a unit in a hospital -- when they’ve been personally affected, it resonates with them. And from our perspective, our neonatal doctors and nurses, it’s really wonderful when it’s former premature [patients] giving back to that particular unit, for sure.”

These days, Christian and Kane McCann are healthy, precocious 3-year-olds whose favorite thing in the world is to play baseball. Much like James' own mother, Carly, did when he was a child, Jessica has helped foster a love of baseball in the twins, who spend dawn to dusk with “a bat, ball and glove in their hands.”

So much of the responsibility of raising the twins falls to Jessica, with James routinely on the road for his day job as the starting catcher of the Mets. It’s a fact that is never lost to McCann, but particularly not on Mother’s Day, at a time of year when the couple’s link to other parents of premature babies is so strong.

“Without her, our family doesn’t work the way that it does,” James said. “A lot of people don’t understand with how much I’m gone, she’s almost like a single mother at times. … She’s definitely the rock. She’s the one that keeps us going as a family. Without her, it wouldn’t be possible.”