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Rockies celebrate Kollmar as Honorary Bat Girl

DENVER -- Being at the Coors Field dugout on Sunday afternoon with her father and her 16-year-old son was an unexpected treat for Carrie Kollmar of Westminster, Colo. But for nine years, she has defied expectations and used her fortune to help others.

Kollmar was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer on Jan. 14, 2005. It spread to her liver a week later, and she was given 18 months. But after a six-month chemotherapy regimen, and several surgeries later, Kollmar is a nine-year Stage IV cancer survivor.

Now Kollmar is dedicated to offering hope to other women like her -- young enough not to have caught the warning signs early and, therefore, often in advanced cancer stages when diagnosed. Over the years on Valentine's Day, she has volunteered to deliver gifts and, more importantly, be a friend to those going through the illness through an organization known as Project Valentine.

Her inspiring story and her dedication to giving back led her friend, Jen Laidlaw, to nominate her to be the 2014 Rockies' Honorary Bat Girl. As one of each club's winner, Kollmar participated in pregame festivities and was honored during an on-field ceremony before Sunday's game against the Padres. She received MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.

She was able to share he experience with her father, Mel, and her older son, Jesse, 18, who is graduating from Pomona High School. She also has a younger son, Joey, 14.

Kollmar said she didn't have a chance to participate this past year, but Project Vallentine -- stared by Colleen Anderson, who was diagnosed on Valentine's Day and knitted gifts for others during her treatment -- is one of her favorite activities. Volunteers spend the year collecting handmade gifts, and deliver them with love on a day when patients truly need it.

"One of my favorite things to do is to sit and talk to people going through treatment while they're sitting there in treatment during Valentine's Day; to sit and talk to them and give them hope, because I remember what it felt like to be that sick," she said. "They really need to feel like there's some light at the end of the tunnel. It's a really dark tunnel."

Kollmar remembers the person who helped her most, Ann Seeber, who taught English to at-risk students in Denver Public Schools. She and Seeber went to retreats where they learned how to prepare their friends and family for their deaths.

Seeber is always with Kollmar. She reached into her back pocket to show just how much.

"She's passed away," Kollmar said. "I know this may seem weird. That's her ash. I brought it with me here today.

"She was my touchstone, for short. I take her with me everywhere."

Kollmar said her friend who nominated her is a big Rockies fan. As for Kollmar, she said she tries to be. But in reality, there is no way her credentials as a fan can be doubted.

"My kids were always in ball," she said. "I always was there, even through chemo. My friends would hold me up and I would watch them play."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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