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The Father’s Day gift that keeps on giving

Andrew Giddens plans to be at Tropicana Field on July 29, wearing a Rays cap and a Yankees jersey. He’s a fan of both the Tampa Bay Rays and Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees and a 10-time all-star shortstop.

Andrew, who will be an eighth-grader at Haile Middle School, and his family will take a limousine from Lakewood Ranch Main Street to Tropicana Field, to watch the game from the Whitney Bank Club, the upscale stadium dining club in the right field mezzanine level.

Leather seats, free food, great view of the action. It doesn’t get much better than that.

During the month of June, management of Lakewood Ranch Main Street held a Father’s Day promotion that Helene Giddens, Andrew’s mother, entered on his behalf.

On July 1, the winner was selected at random, and it was Andrew.

When property manager Julia DeCastro learned that Andrew is a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor and a Children’s Dream Fund recipient, she couldn’t have been happier.

“We were so excited they won,” said DeCastro. “If you could have handpicked a winner, it couldn’t have been sweeter.”

For Andrew, who endured the ordeal of radiation and chemotherapy that caused his hair to fall out, it will be very much a visit with old friends.

Last August, the Childrens Dream Fund sent him to New York for a Yankees game, and as a Tuesday’s Child, he visited the Trop last September to throw out the first pitch at a game.

During those two months, he got to make a commercial with Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir for the Children’s Dream Fund and meet many of the players, including Evan Longoria and Jeter.

“I know Jeter is a great guy. I sent him a birthday card, and he writes back,” Andrew said this week.

Despite his encounter with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Andrew is quite the athlete, a switch-hitting catcher who would love to attend IMG Academy some day and attend a Florida college under a Bright Futures scholarship.

Helene Giddens said Andrew is making a strong recovery from Hodgkin’s.

“He’s doing wonderful. He couldn’t be doing better. Every three months he goes in for CT-scans and X-rays,” she said.

Andrew’s Hodgkin’s was diagnosed just about a year ago, after he was struck in the leg by a baseball.

The injury turned out to be a lucky break, because it led doctors to the surprise diagnosis. “Otherwise we would have never found it,” Helene said.

For Andrew’s father, Randy, the real Father’s Day gift is his son’s improving health.

“He is strong and keeping the faith,” Randy Giddens said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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