Monday, June 14, 2021

39. HottyToddy’s Top Headlines: Vassallo – Ole Miss Grad Fighting for His Life

Christopher Newman, photo provided by Sheila VanDevender
Christopher Newman, photo provided by Sheila VanDevender

Young 23-year-old Christopher Newman’s family is asking for the power of prayer to heal Christopher and to restore his health and happiness.

I visited with Christopher’s mother, Sheila, recently. Her strength and faith came through the phone like a powerful force that has left a lasting impression.

HottyToddy.com: Sheila, tell us a little about you and your family.

Sheila VanDevender: We live in Shuqualak, Mississippi, which is on Highway 45 between Columbus and Meridian. We are members of the Methodist Church. My husband, Tol, is a VanDevender and Billy VanDevender (of Ole Miss fame) is a distant cousin. Tol is an Ole Miss alum.

HottyToddy.com: When did Christopher’s health issues first surface?

Sheila VanDevender: He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the ninth grade. (Christopher recently graduated from the University of Mississippi this spring in Education.) In high school, he was able to play all sports except football. At the time, we took him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. This was October 2007. He was only in the hospital for one week then.

HottyToddy.com: It sounds as though things were going fairly well until now.

Sheila VanDevender: This past Tuesday he had shunt surgery which is an older method to relieve the fluid buildup to the brain. He is in a semi-coma, but we believe he is aware of all that is going around him. He went into the coma on September 29.

HottyToddy.com: What is the prognosis from his physicians?

Sheila VanDevender: The doctors believe because of his age and general good health outside of this condition that he can recover fully. It’s truly day to day. However, we are all convinced that the power of prayer is all that is needed to regain his full health.

HottyToddy.com: Christopher being an Ole Miss fan through and through actually started how long ago?

Sheila VanDevender: As a young child when Ole Miss scored a touchdown, he would march through the house waving a pom-pom.

HottyToddy.com: Apparently his college life here in Oxford was fairly routine.

Sheila VanDevender: It was. He was a campus Senator and has really experienced no medical complications since 2009 until now.

HottyToddy.com: Your Christian faith is able to guide you and the family at this time.

Sheila VanDevender: That is definitely true. My husband is a lay leader in the Methodist Church and we all know that the power of prayer has no limitations. When we sing hymns to Christopher in his hospital bed, we know he can hear as his heart rate increases significantly. His favorite hymn is “Victory in Jesus.”

HottyToddy.com: In addition to placing Christopher Newman on many, many prayer lists, can the Ole Miss family (and beyond) also contribute to offset the enormous medical costs?

Sheila VanDevender: Bank First in Macon has a special fund in place. Checks can be sent to the bank earmarked for Christopher. We would be grateful for any support. The address is 3159 Jefferson Street, Macon, MS 39341.

I’m asking Christians who read this story to respond with your love and prayers. This story truly touched me. I’m also asking the Ole Miss coaching staff and team to dedicate the remainder of the season to this brave young man. God bless each and all of you for allowing us to reach out and God bless Christopher and his family!


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Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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