John Challis has cancer. The 18-year-old baseball player from Freedom H.S. in Pennsylvania has been battling the disease for the past two years. Sadly, the cancer has spread throughout his body. Doctors have told him he may have as little as two months left to live.
But despite his tragic circumstances, Challis wanted the chance to step up to the plate one more time. And as Mike White of the PITTSBURGH POST- GAZETTE reports, John was able to experience a special moment not just for himself, but for his friends, teammates & family.
On April 14, Freedom was facing Aliquippa, when coach Steve Wetzel gave John his opportunity:
He hasn’t played in a few years, but he’s called on to pinch-hit. His eyes light up at the first pitch and he puts all of his 5-foot-5, 93-pound frame into one mighty swing, making contact and sending a line drive into right field for a single — if he can reach first base. The cancer he’s been battling for almost two years has spread to his pelvis, making running nearly impossible.
The kid worries about falling as he hustles down the first-base line. When he gets to the base, he lets out with a yell. “I did it! I did it!”
Safe at first with a hit and an RBI, the kid is hugged by a crying first-base coach. The opposing pitcher takes off his glove, starts applauding and his teammates follow suit. The kid’s teammates run onto the field to celebrate.
Challis has been an inspiration not only for Freedom, but the surrounding communities, as well. Both teammates and opponents alike have worn hats & jerseys marked with John’s number 11. Pitt’s football team presented John with a signed ball. A walk-a-thon had raised over $6,000 for John to take one last trip with his family.
But it’s still a heart-wrenching story. John asked that his mom wouldn’t be interviewed for the Post-Gazette story, since it would be too much for her to take. And at times, it’s hard for John when he realizes what cancer will be taking away from him:
“If I’m mad at anything in this, it’s that I’m not going to be able to have a son, I’m not going to be able to get married and have my own house,” he said, fighting back tears again. “Those are the things I’m mad about. But not dying.”
But John hopes that his experience can help others not only become better people, but more positive people:
“I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration. But why do people think it’s so hard to see things the way I do? All I’m doing is making the best of a situation …”
Why can’t people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It’s always negative this and negative that. That’s all you see and hear.”
Such comments make a thing like sports blog bashing seem so trivial.