by Sean Nolan, Connecting Champions intern and alum
When 15-year-old Austin was in the hospital to undergo treatments for leukemia, he not only lost the chance to go to school with the rest of his classmates. He was pulled from both the football field and basketball court. He was no longer able to physically interact with his teammates and coaches on a daily basis like other kids his age. Thankfully for him, though, he had the Carlow men’s basketball team to fill that void.
During one of Austin’s initial stays at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, he was greeted by Coy, who knew about Austin’s passion for sports and told him that players on the Carlow men’s basketball team were hoping to hang out with him.
“I didn’t really think anything of it at the time,” said Austin. “But a couple weeks later, he came in with a bunch of Carlow basketball players and visited me. I thought it was pretty cool because they’re college basketball players, and I can relate because I play basketball a lot.”
Austin and his new friends spent time playing video games and talking basketball, two things that helped to get Austin’s mind off of the constant IV drips and chemotherapy.
“It was just something that helped me a lot to get my mind off of cancer,” said Austin. “Usually when you’re in the hospital, it’s like chemo, chemo, more chemo. Whenever they came in, you can talk about basketball completely. It takes your mind off of it.”
Austin had the opportunity to visit the university. He got a tour of the players’ dorms as well as played basketball with them on the Carlow hardwood.
When asked how important Connecting Champions was to his mental health, Austin said, “They helped me through so much, and they actually sit down and talk to me and come visit me. Even when I was lonely, they were there.”
In addition to Connecting Champions pairing Austin with the Carlow players, he threw out the first pitch at a 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates game.
“That was crazy. I never thought anything like that would come out of this… We just went to a Pirates game and threw the first pitch. You don’t hear many people doing that.”
Austin just graduated from Blackhawk High School this spring and will be studying nursing next year. He just recently celebrated being declared three years cancer-free!
Types of Friendships