Mary Cade reacted after members of the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department's Lightning and Lynx softball teams presented her a "No. 1 fan" softball player bobblehead doll Wednesday at Buffalo Hills Park.Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
Nearly every day all summer, Mary Cade rides her red electric scooter from her home at Woodland Good Samaritan Village in Brainerd across the street to the Buffalo Hills Park to watch children play ball.
Cade, 89, doesn't have any grandchildren playing in the games. She just loves to watch the young ball players having fun. It makes her day to watch them play.
Because she never misses a game, Brainerd Parks and Recreation presented Cade Wednesday with a softball player bobblehead doll that reads, "No. 1 fan." The 8-, 9- and 10-year-old girls on the Lynx and Lightning softball teams surprised Cade with the bobblehead doll before their game and thanked her for watching them play all summer. Cade was visibly touched.
"I love you all," Cade told the girls. "I've watched you all summer long. Don't you stop doing it now because I'll be back waiting for you to come back in the spring."
Cade said she has been athletic all her life. She attributes her longevity to staying active. She said she has outlived her friends who weren't as healthy or active. She said in her day she was an excellent swimmer and loved to run fast. But now she has bad knees, which forces her to use her electric scooter.
Cade said she has lived at Woodland about 1-1/2 years and happened to hear children's voices echoing across Buffalo Hills Lane one day and decided to investigate. She was pleasantly surprised to find out the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department hosts baseball and softball games for youth at the ball field, and she hasn't stopped going ever since. She said she doesn't think she's missed a game there all summer.
Cade may not know the players' names, but she cheers for them anyway.
"This is so good for these kids," said Cade. "Look at that little bitty thing out there in the center. Isn't she the cutest thing?"
"She cheers for everybody and talks to everybody," said Bonnie Muzik, recreation coordinator for Brainerd Parks and Recreation. "She's a neat lady."
Cade, who is originally from Illinois, said her parents had a lake cottage in the Brained lakes area and she spent most of her summers here throughout her life. She decided to move to Woodland, rather than live in an assistant living community in Illinois. She has a son and daughter.
Growing up, Cade said she would spend her mornings playing tennis at a friend's tennis court, then spend the rest of the day swimming at the local reservoir and then go out dancing at night. She said she enjoys watching the children play, knowing that they're getting a good start on a healthy, active lifestyle like she's tried to maintain throughout her life.
"If you don't use it, you lose it," said Cade.
The 2005 Petite playoff tournament will either end Thursday or Friday night at Buffalo Hills Park, depending on which team wins Thursday. Cade said she will miss the children and watching the games.
"I don't know what I'll do," said Cade, when the season ends. "I'll just be lost. They give me so much joy."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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