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Author Topic: The passing of a hero  (Read 480 times)
Captain Chaos
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« on: Aug 19, 2008 at 19:25 »

Heroes aren't sports stars or celebrities. Heroes are ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things.

I never had the pleasure of meeting this young man, but hearing his story has certainly made an impression on my life. I just hope I can face life's challenges with the strength and character this 19 year old has.

Rest peacefully young John Challis, you will always be an inspiration.

John Challis, 18, dies of cancer
By Luis Fabregas
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The courage never faded.
Up until the end, John Challis managed to teach, provoke, and inspire with words that prove wisdom doesn't come with age.

The 18-year-old's motto: Courage + Believe = Life

"People die in their 90s and don't get to leave that gift," said his mother, Gina Challis. "That's very special."

John Challis, the Beaver County teenager who used his illness to spread an uplifting message of hope and optimism, died this afternoon at his home in Freedom.

When he was diagnosed with liver cancer in June 2006, doctors at Children's Hospital gave Challis about six months to live. He defied the odds and vowed to fight, even trying a new chemotherapy drug in the last week of his life.

Throughout his illness he became disarmingly candid about his views on life. He was often blunt but always levelheaded, once writing on a Pirates dry board in the team locker room: "Have fun. That's why we play baseball."

"He just says what's from his heart," his mother said July 15 in an interview with the Trib. "That's why people are drawn to him."

His father, Scott, said prior to John's death that his son struck a chord with people because he never measured his words.

"I like to be politically correct but John tells it like it is," Scott Challis said.

John's close friend, Steve Wetzel, said he was drawn to Challis by his contagious smile. It almost never left his face, even during the worst times of his illness.

"He just has such a happy-go-lucky personality," said Wetzel, 32, the baseball coach at Freedom High School. "He taught me what is now my message, to live live to its fullest, whether you are healthy or sick. To be appreciative and be affectionate toward people."

Wetzel was instrumental in helping Challis found the Courage For Life Foundation, intended to motivate young cancer patients who are facing uncertainty.

Wetzel likes to tell the story of how Challis beat the odds on April 11 by pinch-hitting at a baseball game between Freedom and Aliquippa high schools. Challis hit a line drive to right field, prompting cheers even from the opposing team.

"It was probably the best moment in my sports career," Wetzel said.

Wetzel, who is getting married in September, had asked Challis to be a groomsman at his wedding. He said Challis changed his life and he has learned to be a better person toward his fiancee and his family.

"He taught me to slow my life down," he said.

Challis's ability to find the upside of life reached everyone from Mario Lemieux to Alex Rodriguez, major sports figures who expressed unabashed admiration for Challis. Rodriguez, the All-Star Yankee third-baseman, hosted Challis at his New York apartment in early July and drove him to a ball game in his SUV. Just a few days ago, Challis was touched when he got a phone call from Pirates player Adam LaRoche.

His parents said the celebrity status never fazed Challis, who remained humble and unpretentious.

"I don't feel like I'm inspiring people," he said on July 15. "It's just me. I don't know any other way."

Despite his optimism, Challis was aware that there was nothing he could do to control the physical pain caused by his cancer.

"It's in God's hands," he said.
« Last Edit: Aug 19, 2008 at 19:29 by Captain Chaos » Logged

Just one man's opinion.

"It's a big game because it's the next game." - Mike Tomlin
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