WASHINGTON - Don’t underestimate Jude Ozaluk.
In spite of her small stature (she’s 8 years old, after all), the young Colorado girl has captured the hearts of Washington Nationals fans, and caught the attention of her favorite player.
The Parker, Colorado native hasn’t been on this earth as long as the Nats, but her family – including her father, Chris, and mother, Danielle – are regulars at Coors Field. Jude was made famous by an appearance during a Nationals broadcast last season when outfielder Jayson Werth (“my favorite,” said Jude) was struck on the elbow by an errant pitch. Jude’s stunned reaction went viral.
When the family returned this season for another Nationals game in Denver, Werth noticed Jude in the outfield and offered her a ball. More importantly, he learned of Jude’s plans to shave her long blonde locks in the name of charity – the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, benefiting research for childhood cancers.
"I felt happy because I'm doing something with kids my age going through cancer and chemo treatments," Jude told FOX 5 in a Skype interview, clad in a wool cap to cover a bald head she concedes gets cold quite easily.
Her mother, Danielle, added, “Here was an 8-year-old shaving her head, and we ran into Jayson and we were hoping he would remember her from last year and that experience was great.”
Jude, whose family has been affected by cancer, had set a $500 goal to raise money. When word began to spread about her efforts via social media and Reddit, it was revised to $750. But the money began pouring in, and as the clippers sheared through her long hair, the tally topped $12,000. As you read through the donors on her website, you notice one constant – Nationals fans – led by “Jayson Werth and family supporting Jude.”
“We’re very proud,” said her mother, offering credit to “all the Nationals fans.”
Jude was the only girl who lined up to buzz her hair that Saturday in Parker, Colorado. She felt the love and support, but when her mother was asked how she responded to her new haircut, she added, “I don’t think she expected to feel that way.”
“Emotionally,” her father added.
So when will Jude get a chance to properly thank Nationals fans (and Jayson Werth) in person? The Nationals won’t visit Denver again until next season, but Jude has a wish of her own.
“We’ve never been to Washington, but we’re going to try and get out there this year to see a series,” said Jude.