A Hero From Freedom


First, my apologies for not posting for so long. The 50th Anniversary Special took up more time than I expected, and I will have to be playing catch up over the next week. 

And the first thing I have to write about is a teenager from Beaver County who captured the attention of a nation, and made us all better for it. I never met John Challis, but I was moved deeply by the stories told by our reporters who interviewed him and his family. Jake Ploeger, Tara Edwards, Jon Burton. I also happened to see the ESPN feature on John and wept the entire time. Not just because of John’s courage and wisdom, but that of his family and his baseball coach, Steve Wetzel, and all the people who drew strength from his example. Courage + Believe = Life. Pretty powerful. Especially when you realize it came from an 18-year-old, dying of liver and lung cancer. I know scholars who have lived decades who could not come up with something so eloquently simple, and infinitely inspirational. 

I was not able to make the viewings or the funeral. Summer vacations by other anchors, and taping sessions for the special prevented it. But the story by Mike White in the Post-Gazette lovingly took me there. He initially brought John Challis to us in his first story in May, and his relationship with John is a perfect example of how “personal” journalism can help better our world, by bringing the best of people into our homes and our hearts. How else would we know of a special hero from Freedom, named John Challis. My thoughts and prayers go out to  his sister, Lexie, and his parents, Scott and Gina. It is difficult to have to grieve publicly, but, then again, it must be some comfort to know they have raised such an exemplary young man.


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