American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” In mid-September, supporters of 10-year old Chance Tetrick gathered in Oxford for a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction and offered proof of what Emerson so eloquently describes.
Some of the guests knew the Tetricks—mom, Jenn; dad, Jeff; and sister, Collins–some did not. But all in attendance left the event feeling as if they, themselves, were the ones blessed by meeting Chance and having an opportunity to help.
Chance is battling an unusually aggressive form of leukemia that will require several years of treatment. As a result, his family is facing tremendous out-of-pocket expenses.
Fortunately, two Oxford residents, Clay Rodgers and former Rebel Terrence Metcalf, stepped forward to coordinate a fund raiser in hopes of assisting with these costs. Neither Rodgers nor Metcalf knew Chance before the event; they simply saw a need for help and began working to do so.
The benefit was truly a testament to the unique personality of the Oxford and Ole Miss communities. Love, faith and hope were alive and well in the Convention Center that September evening, as people gathered to greet Chance, enjoy dinner and purchase items from the Silent Auction.
Ross Bjork speaks and offers support
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork was the featured speaker. He explained the importance of a positive attitude–not only while fighting a battle such as Chance’s, but also in everyday life.
Bjork said it is helpful to begin each day with positive affirmations, such as, “I am great. I can do it. I’m a winner. And today is my day.” He went on to tell the assembled crowd, “Today is Chance’s day and it can be a masterpiece. Today is the only thing we can control, for yesterday ended at midnight.”
When he finished speaking, Mr. Bjork presented Chance with the Rebels’ motivational video from the win against the Texas Longhorns and noted it was dedicated to the little boy.
Then in an incredibly touching moment, Mr. Bjork asked the crowd to rise and do a “Fins Up for Chance.” Everyone in attendance then stood and made the “Fins Up” gesture—a sign that has gained universal appeal at Ole Miss as a symbol of tenacious fighters who never give up.
Co-organizer Terrence Metcalf, a former Rebel and Chicago Bear offensive lineman, also spoke at the event. He told the crowd how special Chance and his family are, and explained how they live each day with an unwavering faith in God.
“The Tetricks are not bitter,” Metcalf said. “Far from it. They present this medical battle to Chance as simply another experience he is having in life—an experience that offers them the opportunity to show their faith in God and where He is leading them.”
Metcalf concluded by saying he wanted to make sure everyone in attendance realized Chance and his family remain upbeat as they face whatever each new day may bring.
In addition to great speakers and tasty food from Taylor Grocery, there were numerous items up for auction, ranging from Ole Miss sports memorabilia to gifts and gift cards from almost every store on the Square.
Some of the items generated quite a buzz. Ken Crain, the Equipment Manager for Ole Miss Football, donated a camouflaged Ole Miss Football helmet signed by every single member of the Duck Dynasty cast. It was one of the most highly sought-after items of the evening and was purchased by Dr. Hayden Perkins, an Oxford dentist.
Local CPA Chris Jones was also a big winner, taking home a signed Eli Manning jersey AND a powder-blue Ole Miss helmet signed by two-time Cotton Bowl MVP and current Kansas City Chiefs player, Dexter McCluster.
Jones will no doubt be considered the coolest dad in Oxford, as he bought both items for his son, Chase Jones, an 8th grader at the R. H. Long Booneville Middle School.
Oxford community, Rebel players and coaches help make a difference
Ole Miss Assistant Coach Tom Allen, a close friend and supporter of Chance and his family, also attended the event, as did numerous members of the Rebel Football team.
The players and coaches have grown close to the young boy, and each week that he is physically able to do so, Chance makes a video that encourages the players and coaches in their upcoming game. The video is then posted on YouTube, Twitter and on Chance’s website, FinsUpForChance.com.
The players and the little boy share a unique bond, and it inspires them all. In an earlier interview with HottyToddy.com, Coach Allen emphasized how blessed he and the Rebel players are to know Chance: “He has given us far more than we could ever give him. He is an inspiration to our program because he fights the good fight each and every day, and does so with a positive attitude.”
When asked his thoughts on the benefit, co-organizer Rodgers said: “While working my way through Oxford in search of donations for the Silent Auction, I was overwhelmed by everyone’s willingness to help. This benefit was a success only because everyone pitched in to help Chance.” He praised the community and added, “No one turned me down when I asked for donations—Oxford recognized a need and met it.”
Both Rodgers and Metcalf continue to spend time with Chance and his family and look forward to assisting them in any way possible. “We’re so glad we have this new friend,” Rodgers added, “Chance is one of us, and we will keep helping him until he beats this thing.”
Chance’s family deeply touched by Ole Miss support
The Tetrick family was touched by the support of the Ole Miss community, and was both thrilled and surprised to see Rebel players in attendance at the event. “To be honest, I didn’t expect for the players or Coach Allen to attend the event on a school night,” said Jenn. “But Chance was so excited to see Coach and the boys.”
Always one to stress the importance of education, Jenn Tetrick had the opportunity to speak with a few of the players about their academics at Ole Miss. “I got the feeling they are very focused on their classes,” she said.
“I know Coach Allen stated in a previous conversation with me that the staff has inculcated the importance of academics to the boys, and it is evident the players have heard their coaches’ message loud and clear,” she added.
As for what the banquet meant to the Tetricks, Jenn explains: “It was a blessing for a myriad of reasons. It brought together many people. Although the focus was on our family, I believe each person there learned something new about cancer, especially childhood cancer. It doesn’t affect each child the same. Families deal with it differently.”
“The Rebel Family is a loving one”
Those in attendance that evening experienced the Ole Miss community at its finest. Jenn Tetrick described what it means to the family to be so embraced: “The Rebel Family is a loving one. Since all of our family is in Indiana, we are so blessed to have the Rebel Family standing with and supporting us in this battle with leukemia.”
“The benefit dinner also allowed us to meet so many loving members of the Rebel Family who have prayed for and reached out to Chance and our family,” she added. “They got to meet our little fighter and hear more about his story. It was a blessing for Chance and our family to see so many of the people who are praying for and supporting us.”
The Tetrick family was obviously appreciative of the support from the town and university they love dearly. “We are so grateful to the Rebel Family, the Rebel Football program, the Oxford and Ole Miss community, First Baptist Church, all those who contributed to Chance’s benefit, and all who pray for and support us in any way,” Jenn said.
“We thank Clay and Terrence for organizing the benefit,” she added, “as well as Ross Bjork for supporting Chance and fostering such a spirit of family within the Ole Miss Athletics Department. We love you all. We are blessed to have your support in Chance’s battle to beat leukemia.”
Update on Chance’s condition
HottyToddy.com visited with Jenn Tetrick this week and asked how her son is doing. “Since the benefit,” she said, “Chance’s progress in treatment has remained stationary. He has been admitted several times for myriad of reasons. Pancreatitis claims responsibility for the most recent stay. Although it is normal for children to develop this during chemotherapy, his bout was unexpected. We haven’t reached a year into treatment and he has already experienced several setbacks.”
Because of various complications, the doctors have had to halt Chance’s chemotherapy several times. His mother added, “He isn’t a kid who can sustain prolonged periods without treatment. His response to treatment, as well as his cancer, is sporadic.”
Anyone who has met Chance knows he moves forward with a positive attitude. “Thankfully, he progresses through each obstacle in excellent spirits,” Jenn says. “When every prognostic factor is taken into consideration, he’s doing a fantastic job.”
At the end of her interview with HottyToddy.com, Jenn again expressed her appreciation: “Our gratefulness for the love and support from the community is immeasurable,” she said.
Ultimate Show of Support: Walk of Champions
In yet another show of support, Ross Bjork tweeted today that Chance will lead the Rebels on the Walk of Champions prior to the Missouri game Saturday. Bjork writes: “Big games require support from everyone—proud that Chance Tetrick will lead our team on the Walk of Champions!”
Were Ralph Waldo Emerson alive today, there is no doubt the poet would likely smile at the real-life example in Oxford, Mississippi of people helping others–and themselves in the process.
– Evelyn VanPelt, HottyToddy.com, Sports Reporter