I first read about John Challis online. It was the first weekend in May and I was looking for a story to share with my own baseball players. They had just lost a tough game and I wanted them to put their misery in perspective. It was before ESPN and the national media got on board. Even then, it was a pretty inspiring story.
Of course, soon after that article, ESPN came calling. And even though I hate to admit it, I was in tears after watching their story on Challis. After all he had gone through with illness, to still be so committed to something like baseball and his teammates. His story truly inspired me and apparently I'm not the only one. To remind him of the important tings, he wrote the following phrase on the inside of his hat: COURAGE + BELIEVE = LIFE. Joe Maddon became so impressed and inspired by Challis that he began writing it on the daily lineup card for the Rays.
In the months after the story broke on the national scene, Challis has met with many groups to help inspire them. In addition to the "normal citizens" he touched with his story, he also got to rub elbows with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Penguins, Alex Rodriquez and the New York Yankees, and (the before-mentioned, Joe) Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays. He even helped establish the John Challis Courage for Life Foundation. I'm pretty sure that by my 18th birthday I had accomplished nothing significant. I'm also pretty sure that a majority of you are in the same boat I was in.
John Challis died Tuesday, finally losing the battle he waged against cancer for over two years. When I saw the story again on ESPN that night, there were a few more tears. It's so unfair that someone so in love with life and committed to making things better for others had to experience what he did.
Many people have told me that the truest measure of a life is the impact you have on others. If this is true, then John Challis lived an extraordinary life, even if it was cruelly ended prematurely.
John Challis Accomplished More in 18 Years Than Most Will in 50 Years