Michael Howard, a 10-year-old from Youngstown, will sign with the University of Mount Union Football team today at 3:30 p.m. in the B&B Cafe in the Campus Center.
Michael was diagnosed with t-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) at the age four. He had extremely high white blood cell counts and was life flighted to the hospital. His heart would not have been able to work if they had waited 6-8 more hours. He was in intensive care and did chemo for 3 weeks and was then released. He has had 13 different types of chemo for treatment. With all that Michael battles through, he truly epitomizes what it means to be a fighter and is sure to be an inspiration to his teammates.
Michael's favorite things to do are playing football, basketball, baseball, golfing, hunting, and riding his bike. Michael will be joined at today's ceremony with his parents -- Mike and Nancy and sisters Paige and Sydney.
Welcoming Michael at the ceremony will be head coach Vince Kehres along with members of the team including Mitch Doraty (Medina/Medina), Jonathan Gonell (Pembroke Pines, Fla./University School), Bradley Mitchell (Detroit, Mich./South Lake), Jamal Johnson (New Philadelphia/New Philadelphia), Braeden Friss (Avon/Avon), Louis Berry IV (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shadyside Academy) and Matt Lowry (Rocky River/Rocky River).
Team IMPACT is a nonprofit that looks to create and expand vibrant team based support systems for children facing life threatening and chronic illnesses. The idea of our program is to improve the quality of life for these children as well as to give them an opportunity to experience the team atmosphere and have some fun. It has really done wonders to help with the psychological and emotional obstacles many of these kids face. Our program looks to have a child "Drafted" on to their own team at a college near their home. The team invites them to games and practices and they forge a relationship that continues over time (for the duration of the child's treatment and beyond).
The benefit we have seen from these relationships to both that child and his or her family has been remarkable. Children are gaining confidence, improving social skills and even doing better in school to emulate their teammates. Student-athletes and coaches are also providing similar feedback about the overall benefit of this program to their teams as they grow closer around their newly drafted teammate and are learning about the real meaning of overcoming adversity and battling for something more important then a W on the court or field but one in life.