August 19, 2008

Friends: John Challis Was A 'Fighter'

FREEDOM ― Friends of John Challis, the 18-year-old from Freedom who lost his battle with terminal lung and liver cancer, remember his exuberance for life.

Challis passed away Tuesday afternoon surrounded by loved ones at his home in Freedom.

Steve Wetzel, Challis' coach and friend, was with him.

"I spoke to him. I went in and he was laying there with his eyes closed and I just went in and rubbed his arm - his family let me have my time with him and just told him I loved him and put up a heck of a fight," Wetzel said. "I'm so proud of him and there won't be a day that goes by that I don't think about him and I'm going to continue to spread his message."

Former classmates of Challis were inspired by his courage.

"I prayed every night for him," Freedom High School Quarterback Jeremy Herzog said. "I know many people did but I just couldn't believe how much of a fighter he was."

Challis spread a message of hope while he was alive. His motto: "Courage + Believe = Life."

"Don't look at dying as a bad thing. Look at it as a chance to meet God and just make the best of the time you do have," he said.

Challis graduated high school in June and continued to spread his positive message. That month he was also an honorary manager during a game with the Pirates and he spoke to the team in the locker room.

First baseman Adam LaRoche tells KDKA John's words moved him and he kept in touch with him after his visit.

"If there's a good thing that came out of it it's all the lives that he's touched," LaRoche said. "And the things he had to go through, what he did and didn't get to live life but you know he's going to be ... he'll be looking down from heaven and seeing all the guys that he's changed down here."

His father Scott Challis tells KDKA that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez called John last week to see how he was doing.

Challis also met Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and team chairman Dan Rooney. The team released a statement expressing their condolences.

"The Steelers are greatly saddened by the news of the passing of John Challis. Our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family during this difficult time."

In a statement, the Penguins also send their deepest sympathy to the Challis family.

"John was an extraordinarily courageous young man who touched all of our lives with his strength, passion, dignity and caring for others. Because of his attitude and actions, especially in the last year of his life when he faced so much adversity, his memory will last forever."

The viewing for Challis will be held at Noll Funeral Home in Beaver from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

His funeral is will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Beaver.

Courage For Life Foundation

August 02, 2008

Inspirational Teen Serves As Mayor For The Day

CONWAY ― The inspirational Beaver County teen, who is fighting a tough battle against cancer, was presented with a very special honor today.

John Challis, a recent graduate of Freedom High School, had the opportunity to serve as the mayor of Conway for the day.

"Today, we honor John Challis for the wisdom and the courage he has shared and the courage you have shown," said Mayor David Trombetto, of Baden. "It is our honor to present you the key to the city."

Many people say Challis continues to be a very big inspiration.

"I have two 16-year-old daughters that just adore him," said Karen Roman, a member of Conway's council. "He's an amazing young man and when he speaks, people just take it to heart and listen to him. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk."

And for his very special day, Challis said he wanted to enjoy the experience.

"It's not really my place to say this, but I am technically mayor right now, so I figured just having a good time, don't break anything, just have fun, don't cause trouble and just have a good day," he said.

Then, when asked by some in the crowd if he could lower their taxes, Challis smartly said that he just wanted to enjoy the day's carnival and fireworks.