Back to reality.

John Challis died today at the physical age of 18 but the emotional age of 60.

Wise decades before the wisdom should have kicked in and mature years before the maturity should have shown up, he was truly an inspiring teenager who faced death, admitted it scared him, but was more worried about how it would affect his family when he was gone.

He was a selfless kid who instead of dwelling heavily on what he could not change, looked to using his reaction to the inevitable, to change those around him. And it did.

I really can’t explain how his story took off, but the kid was just unbelievable,” Mr. Wetzel said. “His attitude and messages I think changed how some people looked at their lives. He changed how I went about life.

“I feel like a piece of my heart is gone now. The thing I’ll miss most is his smile. He had a smile that could light up a room.”

You know, I’ve said it for three years what it does to me when kids are sick. I can’t express to you what it does to me when kids die. I’ve hugged a friend the day her young child died. Stood by her while she saw him buried. I’ve seen first hand what it does to parents. They die a little too. Maybe a lot. You can’t put your child in the ground and not put a part of yourself in there with him.

So it’s easy to feel angry. To question. To throw your hands up and say, “There’s just no point and I’m mad about it.”

John however saw a point.

To know I’m going downhill a little bit, it doesn’t bother me because I’ve helped so many people. Since I’ve helped so many people, this is easier to handle.

That’s my message just for people to always do their best, no matter what they’re doing or how stupid it might seem. And no matter what, there will always be a reward, no matter how small it is.

I’ll never forget John Challis, who I hope got to where he wanted to be and I hope the reward was huge.

You can donate here.


  1. John
    August 19, 2008 3:11 pm

    A young life… well lived. Rest in peace.

  2. unsatisfied
    August 19, 2008 3:34 pm

    first randy pausch — now, john challis.

    this is a big bag of suck.

    what a tremendous story of courage in someone so young in age, facing certain death. I’m sorry that he’s gone — and, sorry that one of things he had to deal with in addition to his illness was the a-rod/madonna crap in nyc when he was there not too long ago.

    rip, john.

    not really related to this subject, but worthy of attention — “dirty doug” mientkiewicz’s wife, jodi, just had heart surgery this week. my thoughts/prayers to them and their family.

  3. InSewickley
    August 19, 2008 3:47 pm

    This is very sad. Why does god take good people?

  4. Mitch Cumstein
    August 19, 2008 3:50 pm

    Life is a mother…it’s school and we have to keep coming back till we get it right, then we get to go to a better place. I think John graduated.

  5. KGC
    August 19, 2008 4:36 pm

    Damn. Just damn. Way too young. I cried today and I’m way older than many and a male. I just contributed what I could.

  6. bucdaddy
    August 19, 2008 9:44 pm

    You know those obits that always say, “died after a brave battle with [insert brutal and fatal disease here]”?

    Not me, I’m going kicking and whining and shrieking and whimpering and crying like a little girl.

    You’re a braver man than I, John Challis.

  7. Brian
    August 20, 2008 7:40 am

    I agree with Bucdaddy on this one. I know I’d handle it poorly. There was a headline once on The Onion that said, “Man loses cowardly battle with cancer.” That would be me if I’m ever so unfortunate to be in that situation.

    OK, but back to John. Tremendous battle fought, and you know, you can’t really say he lost. OK, sure, he passed away, but to do that much good, raise that much awareness, be that brave … that’s a victory. To affect all the people around him, to start a foundation (AT 18!), to start a golf event to raise money and awareness (AT 18!) … that’s a victory. I feel awful for his friends and family, and I feel bad for John, but I think he died a proud, dedicated person, and again, that’s a victory.

    Pittgirl, I too have had to watch a mother bury a child. I had to deliver the news to my girlfriend at the time that her sister was killed. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly devastating that is, and I can literally remember every moment from getting the phone call to having to devlier the news. I wish I could have it erased from my memory. It was the worst moment of my life. It’s not been topped in almost 10 years. I hope it never is.

  8. John
    August 20, 2008 7:49 am

    Hell is living one day longer than your child.

  9. Ms. Caroline
    August 20, 2008 8:57 am

    Word John. Word.

    Children should never have to deal with such trauma. Bless his family. My thoughts are with them during this time.

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