Those who have been following the story of John Challis in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette shouldn't be surprised that he's taking the country by storm. The Freedom High School (Pa.) senior, who has terminal cancer, was invited to attend Game 2 of the NHL playoff series between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on Sunday at Mellon Arena, and even got to hang out with Mario Lemieux in his suite, along with Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"My head is spinning," John said later. "This week has just been incredible and now this. It was like someone dropped me off at the wrong party. I felt like one of the kings of the city for a few minutes with those guys. I really can't think of experiencing anything better than this, except maybe going to Rome or meeting God for the first time."
And then, to prove that he's really from Pennsylvania:
As John Challis was standing between Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Rooney, he looked at them and said, "Wow. I never thought I'd be talking with two owners of sports teams in the city." "There's only one missing," Mr. Lemieux said, referring to the Pirates. John quickly replied, "Yeah, but at least the two winners are here."
John has done radio interviews with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN and Dan Patrick on Fox, and has been invited to games by the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. And Roethlisberger is going to try and get him a visit to a Steelers practice. Marlins pitcher Mark Hendrickson read his story and called the Post-Gazette to set up a meeting with John.
"I read the story [on the Internet] and it was so touching and inspiring," Mr. Hendrickson said. "The date he found out he had cancer [June 23, 2006] is my birthday. As an athlete, maybe we can do something for him and his family. But he could help a lot of people, too, with his attitude. We have a lot of young guys on our team who are wide-eyed. His story and being around him could be humbling and good for them."
Penguins Honor Beaver County Teenager With Cancer [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
HS Baseball Cancer Battler Meets Mario And Big Ben [Sports by Brooks]
Perfect Game [Deadspin]