Thursday, August 21, 2008

Courage Remembered

by Joyce Tremel

I was going to write about the 85 year old woman who held a 17 year old burglar at gunpoint until the police showed up, but something else happened that I just have to write about.

On Tuesday, 18 year old John Challis of Freedom, PA lost his hard-fought battle with cancer. While there are many other young people who suffer from the same disease, none of them touched as many people as John. His outlook on life and his ability to cope with a deadly disease with a smile made him special.

Pittsburghers first became aware of John back in April. He'd already been suffering from cancer for two years, but Freedom baseball coach Steve Wetzel gave him the opportunity to pinch hit in a game. John got a hit on the first pitch and scored a run.
(Photo by Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Shortly after that, John's story was playing on every local station, and soon other cities. John got to hang out with Mario Lemieux and the Penguins, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and even the New York Yankees. He was featured on ESPN, and received letters from all over the country written by people who had been touched by his story.

He might have become a celebrity, but John's mission was to help other people. One of his goals, which he met, was to start the Courage for Life Foundation to help other teenagers with cancer.

John's motto was Courage + Believe = Life.

We should all be so profound.


Annette said...

We here in the Pittsburgh area have lost two inspiring souls to cancer in recent weeks. One a teacher, one a student. Both leaders.

A true loss.

Dana King said...

I'm a transplanted Burgher, living now in Maryland. I became aware of John Challis while watching national coverage of a Panguins' playoff. Following the Pens and Pirates throuhg the Post-Gazette online has kept me familiar with his story.

I usually think we tend to make too much of stories like this. People die in tragic or disturbing circumstances all the time; it's not news. I readily confess to being touched when I read of his passing yesterday. With even my brief exposure and shallow knowledge, he had shown me he was a special young man who will be missed.

Joyce said...

Dana, I think what touched most people was his attitude. He knew he was going to die, but never seemed to feel sorry for himself. Every time I saw a photo or video of him he was smiling. He tried to make the best of the short time he had.

Anonymous said...

As a transplanted Pittsburgher living in NC, this is the first time that I have read about John Challis. The thing that I found most remarkable about his life, was not his wonderful attitude or his courage, but his apparent zest for life and intention to live it to the fullest...a lesson for each of us. Another truly amazing thing about his life is that he took the tragedy and the negatives of his experience with cancer and turned it into a life giving positive by helping other teens with cancer and developing the Courage for Life Foundation. What a legacy for an 18 year old--for anyone!!
Amy Oliphant

kathie said...

Hi Joyce, great topic to post on. I listened to an interview with John's coach the other day and several times I was moved to tears...amazing how this kid impacted people. Thanks for remembering him here!