Nerlens Noel brings 7-year-old leukemia patient to Kentucky Derby with him

Nerlens-Noel-Kelly-MeltonFormer Kentucky star Nerlens Noel attended the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, and he brought with him a special guest. Noel has developed a relationship with a 7-year-old boy named Kelly Melton, who is currently battling leukemia. Melton was recently released from the hospital, so Noel asked him if he would like to accompany him to the biggest horse race of the year.

“I brought Kelly with me,” Noel explained, via the Courier-Journal. “He struggles with leukemia and I’ve known him for a while. He’s been in the hospital for a while. He just got out the other day so I invited him here to come experience this with me. It’s my first and it’s his first so it’s a great opportunity for us to come out here and enjoy it.”

Noel just turned 19 last month. Despite the fact that he suffered a knee injury in February and was held out for the remainder of the Wildcats’ season, he has decided to declare for the upcoming NBA Draft. The fact that he is already helping brighten the day of people like little Kelly is a good sign that he understands what it means to be a superstar athlete.

H/T College Basketball Talk

College track athlete reportedly ends career to donate bone marrow to leukemia patient

Cameron LyleA college track athlete is giving up his remaining athletic career at the University of New Hampshire in order to donate bone marrow to a leukemia patient.

Cameron Lyle, a senior who throws shot put, discus, and hammer at UNH, is scheduled to be a donor to an anonymous recipient on April 24. The procedure will leave him unable to compete in his remaining two track meets, effectively ending his collegiate athletic career.

The sacrifice was not much of a choice for Lyle.

According to the Eagle-Tribune, Lyle, who is from Plaistow, N.H., was swabbed during his sophomore year when many UNH athletes were encouraged to join the bone marrow registry.

Nearly two years went by without anything happening until Lyle was informed a few months ago that he might be a match. A few weeks ago, he learned he was a 100-percent match for someone in need of a donor.

“They told me it was a one in 5 million chance of me being a match for a non-family member,” Lyle told the Eagle-Tribune. “They gave me the timeline and everything’s been moving quickly after that.”

Lyle’s recipient is a 28-year-old suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The identity of the two men will be kept secret from one another for at least a year. Lyle will be unable to lift anything greater than 20 pounds over his head for a few weeks following the procedure, which will end his track career. But that hardly matters to him.

“He has six months to live and I have the possibility to buy him a couple more years,” Lyle told the Eagle-Tribune.

Both Lyle’s track coach and mother are proud of him for his decision. His mother, who will be with him when he donates the bone marrow, called him a hero.

This is an absolutely incredible gesture by the young man. He is displaying a strong sense of maturity and selflessness with his sacrifice. Lyle’s story also hits close to home for me; the father of one my friends was suffering from leukemia and had his hopes up after a match for a bone marrow donor was found. However, the donor backed out at the last minute, leaving my friend’s father to undergo a rare procedure which luckily worked.

Lyle’s courage is admirable, and we are hoping for the best for him and the person who receives his donation.

H/T Deadspin
Photo via UNH

7-year-old cancer patient scores touchdown in Nebraska spring game

A 7-year-old boy battling cancer lit up the day Saturday by scoring a touchdown at Nebraska’s spring football game.

Jack Hoffman has been fighting cancer since being diagnosed in April 2011. He has gone through two surgeries and is on a two-week break from chemotherapy. During his break, he had the opportunity of a lifetime — Nebraska called him in for a play on fourth-and-1 from the 31-yard line, and they let him run free for a 69-yard touchdown.

Hoffman said the feeling was “awesome.”

Hoffman got involved with the Nebraska football program after meeting running back Rex Burkhead last year. Burkhead, who finished his senior season and is preparing for the NFL Draft, became the captain of Jack’s support group. Jack was even wearing Burkhead’s No. 22 during the game.

The team’s director of football operations, Jeff Jamrog, and fullback CJ Zimmerer had the idea to let Jack score a touchdown in the game. The result was an awesome moment for Hoffman and everyone who watched the play.

BYU guard Craig Cusik hits game-winning buzzer-beater hours after learning father has cancer (Video)

Craig-CusikBYU guard Craig Cusik drained an emotional buzzer-beater on Tuesday night, but not only because it gave his team an important victory over Utah State. Just hours before the game, Cusik learned that his father had been diagnosed with cancer.

Cusik chose not to discuss his father’s condition after the game, but The Salt Lake Tribune reported that doctors found a cancerous tumor Tuesday afternoon, two days after Randy Cusik collapsed and needed to be taken to a hospital. Cusik did discuss the game-winning bucket, which came after teammate Matt Carlino front-rimmed his shot attempt.

“Hard to explain,” Cusik said. “As a player, you couldn’t dream it any better. I was just fortunate. Coach called a great play. I saw that when Matt shot it that there was a chance that it was going to be a little bit short. I ran where I thought it was going to come off, and I was fortunate.the ball came to me. It’s great that I made the shot, but I have to give credit to my teammates who pulled us through the rest of the way.”

The senior finished with four points in the 70-68 win. The shot was likely a much-needed boost for his entire family on what had to have been an incredibly difficult day. Here’s hoping Randy Cusik responds to treatment and makes a speedy recovery.

H/T The Dagger

Michigan recruit Michael Ferns stepped out at 1-yard line so teammate who lost his father could score

On Oct. 3, two days before St. Clairsville High School (Ohio) defeated Edison, St. Clairsville freshman Logan Thompson tragically lost his father, Paul, to an unexpected stroke. In order to help him honor his father, Thompson’s St. Clairsville teammates were determined to make Oct. 5 the night he scored his first touchdown. They accomplished their goal.

Prior to the game, St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean got together with his team — unbeknownst to Thompson — and instructed anyone who had a clear path to the end zone to step out at the one-yard line. Michigan recruit Michael Ferns followed the instructions when he broke a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“When I saw Mike break away down the sideline I just started yelling for Logan,” McLean told USA TODAY High School Sports. “He was surprised because he – like everyone else – figured Mike would just run it on in. Logan didn’t know anything about what we were doing.”

The officials were also baffled by the play, and they signaled touchdown despite the fact that Ferns stepped out. The play was overturned after the St. Clairsville coaches and players emphatically protested the call, and in came Thompson to turn his first ever high school carry into his first career touchdown.

“Mike ran up to Logan and gave him a big hug,” McLean explained. “It was emotional for everyone. Last Friday was something that touched the whole team. Logan was going through so much and for a few minutes we helped him get his mind off of things. It honored his dad. It was just an awesome moment.”

The gesture appears to have meant a lot to Thompson, who paid tribute to his father on Twitter after the game and said he knew “the old man was watching.” Like the story of this unforgettable free throw or this amazing touchdown run, moments like the one St. Clairsville made happen remind us that football is sometimes more than just a game. In this instance, it was an opportunity for Thompson’s extended family to help him heal.

H/T The Big Lead
Photo via @M_Ferns10

Cancer survivor Ben Rouse attends all 162 Milwaukee Brewers games

Ben Rouse is no stranger to defying odds. To the average person, attending all 162 Brewers games in one season may sound like an impossible task. To a 25-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007 and is currently in remission, the word “impossible” doesn’t exist.

“You only live once, and you might as well do something when you can,” Rouse told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after completing his tour across North America on Wednesday.

Rouse spent more than 680 hours inside MLB ballparks this season, and he documented his journey with a blog along the way. He was formerly a 20-game partial season-ticket holder with the Brewers, but when he told the team he wanted to attend every game of the season — home and away — they were happy to help. The Brewers upgraded Rouse to a full season ticket package and got him a ticket to every road game. He says he had to spend about $6,500 while following the Brew Crew everywhere they went.

Rouse’s daily blog, Ben Rouse’s Brewers Mission 162, helped raise awareness for the Be The Match Foundation, an organization that helps find donors for those in need of bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplants. After being diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in 2007, Rouse underwent various treatments including chemotherapy. He received an umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant in 2009 and has been in remission since.

“Why not do it at 25?” Rouse asked. “Who knows what my body will be like in 20 years, 30 years.”

As expected, his 162-game tour was filled with mind-boggling feats and statistics. Rouse ate 100 sausages, threw out two ceremonial first pitches, traveled 43,000 miles and saw 48,000 pitches. Perhaps even more impressive, he missed only 110 pitches. Most importantly, he showed people that doing something you put your mind to is entirely possible, no matter what the circumstances. If Ben Rouse can fight leukemia and attend all 162 games of the Brewers season, all the while raising money for a great cause, what’s our excuse?

H/T Big League Stew

Nelson Cruz buys firetruck, donates it to his hometown in the Dominican Republic

The town of San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic lacks adequate public safety equipment for it’s more than 240,000 residents. Fortunately for the people in the town, one of their own is a Major League Baseball player with a big heart.

According to the Star-Telegram, Ranger slugger Nelson Cruz recently purchased an all-terrain vehicle that he will be donating to his hometown to boost their public safety resources. San Francisco de Macoris has very few ambulances and no rugged pumper truck for their fire department, which inspired Cruz to make the donation.

“In my hometown we don’t have ambulances or firetrucks, so I decided to buy one,” Cruz explained. “It was yellow, so we had to paint it red.”

The American Medical Response, which provides ambulance service in Arlington, has also decided to help the cause by donating two ambulances. The dealership in Minnesota where Cruz is purchasing the firetruck from is also sending along hand tools, hoses and nozzles.

“It was definitely something to help the community there,” Cruz said. “I’ve heard that people who have an accident or have something happen have to go to another town. The hospital in my hometown isn’t very big, so they have to go an hour away to get to the hospital. Some people die sometimes because they don’t have transportation.”

The fact that Cruz’s town doesn’t have enough equipment to tend to emergencies is truly a shame, and it’s great that he has decided to use his good fortune to help save lives. The Rangers are also paying to have the vehicles shipped to the Dominican Republic, so thanks to Cruz’s generosity a number of people have gotten involved for a great cause.

H/T Hardball Talk