ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Four years ago, Tampa-native Scott Smith was diagnosed with paraganglioma, a rare form of cancer that attacks his blood vessels and nerves. The Rays super-fan said since then, he's taken a few pages out of his favorite team's playbook.
"Being a Rays fan, they’re always the underdog. They’re so resilient," Smith said. "If I can have that same attitude; it would give me a fighting chance."
Smith, 49, said the odds might be against him, but he wants his main focus to be enjoying all the time he possibly can.
"I just chose to use this time to live my best life ever," Smith grinned. "Not think about what the percentages are. Just, just go out there and give it my best chance and fight against it."
T-shirt designer Matt Shapiro has never met Scott. He just saw a few of his tweets and decided he wanted to join the fight.
"This guy’s this powerful and this strong, fighting for himself and his family," Shapiro said at his St. Petersburg studio. "What can I do to help make it a little bit easier? I just reached out to him and I said 'Let’s do something.' ”
The two decided on an idea for a fundraiser.
Scott's daughter, Kaitlyn, just finished a veterinary assistant program and landed her first job. He decided to use her career path to help start a scholarship for students interested in the same field.
Smith's dog, Charlie, is the inspiration for the shirt design. All of the money raised from the t-shirts will go toward the scholarship.
"I just wanted to be able to give back in some way to somebody that was wanting to work in that field. Just because of our love for animals."
Shapiro jumped at the chance to help out.
"If we can help just a little bit. Another vet to complete the goal, to complete the program of becoming a veterinarian, or a vet assistant, or a vet tech, or whatever their goal is. Let’s do it."
Scott said that even on his bad days, the support from the Rays organization and Rays fans acts as fuel for him to keep fighting.
"It really has shown how a community can come together," Scott said. "I’ve had a lot of people rally around me. It’s like a team effort, it really is."
"We know each other through winning together and losing together," Shapiro added. "This has kinda allowed us to connect on a more personal level and support each other. It’s amazing what you can do in 142 characters and how you can change someone’s life."
Scott said he might not be around to have all the conversations he wants to have with his family, so he's going to take advantage of every second he does have.
"Teach my kids, it doesn’t take money or any of these things to be able to help somebody. You know a lot of times it’s just a smile and a kind word."
Or a tweet and a t-shirt.