OLMA softball

The Our Lady of Mercy Academy softball team poses for a photo at the Walk to Cure Psoriasis on April 20 at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Our Lady of Mercy Academy softball coach Jamie Cook's disease has never been worse.

And it's not going anywhere. Currently, there is no cure.

With that in mind, Cook's team recently proved it knows how to step up to the plate, even when it's nowhere near a softball field.

In 90-degree weather, Cook can typically be found wearing long pants and a sweatshirt.

Cook isn't making a fashion statement. She is battling psoriasis.

She was in remission as recently as three years ago but says the autoimmune disease covers more than 90 percent of her body.

"If I was to wear shorts and a T-shirt I would look as if I've been burned all over my body," Cook said. "And it's physically painful too. When I take a shower, it's like someone is burning me with a match. My skin is red from head to toe."

Cook gets a shot in her stomach every other week to treat the disease and goes to light therapy three times a week.

Psoriasis makes Cook self-conscious and insecure at times, something that doesn't sit well with her team and students (Cook is also a health and physical education teacher at OLMA).

"We always see coach Cook struggle with it during the season when it starts to get sunny out," said senior captain Giana Vozzi, 18, of Egg Harbor Township. "So we decided we would do something to show our support."

OLMA has only played five games (3-2) through today nearly a month into the season thanks to a 10-day Easter break combined with the school's senior class trip.

But the Villagers have been plenty busy.

The girls made and sold T-shirts to raise money. A number of players and their families donated money.

The group took the money raised, more than $700, and participated in the Walk to Cure Psoriasis on April 20 at the Philadelphia Zoo.

"It was just a great feeling," said senior Devon Donaghy, 18, of Glassboro. "It brought the whole team together. It was great team bonding. It meant a lot to our coach. Just to see her happy and so involved brought the whole team together."

The group of about 14 girls was even named a "Cure Champion" for such a large donation and turnout at the event.

Cook even stepped out of her comfort zone in the moment, took her sweatshirt off and took a picture with the team wearing a sleeveless shirt.

"It was just the greatest feeling," Cook said. "They totally motivated me. It's hard when you have this disease. You don't know what is going to help you.

"These girls really helped me. We can win and we can lose, but these girls are 100 percent on my side and I am 100 percent on their side."

Cook and her team took turns inspiring each other that day at the zoo.

"It was great - the confidence she had there to take off the sweatshirt," Donaghy said. "I was so happy to see her express herself. She is always covered up, so it was really cool to see her feel totally confident around everyone at the zoo that day."

The team now hopes that some of its off-the-field successes carry over to the field.

The Villagers will play as many as four or five games a week the rest of the season to make up for missed time.

The team returned eight starters from last season's team, including Vozzi, who is in her fourth year as the team's starting pitcher.

"(Coach Cook) means so much to us," Vozzi said. "She is one of the best coaches I have ever had and in the last couple of years she really has become a friend to us all, as well as a mentor and a coach."

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