Austin is a star on AND off the court

When 15-year-old Austin was in the hospital to undergo treatments for leukemia, he not only lost the chance to go to school with the rest of his classmates. He was pulled from both the football field and basketball court. He was no longer able to physically interact with his teammates and coaches on a daily basis like other kids his age. Thankfully for him, though, he had the Carlow men’s basketball team to fill that void.

During one of Austin’s initial stays at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, he was greeted by Coy, who knew about Austin’s passion for sports and told him that players on the Carlow men’s basketball team were hoping to hang out with him.

“I didn’t really think anything of it at the time,” said Austin. “But a couple weeks later, he came in with a bunch of Carlow basketball players and visited me. I thought it was pretty cool because they’re college basketball players, and I can relate because I play basketball a lot.”

Austin and his new friends spent time playing video games and talking basketball, two things that helped to get Austin’s mind off of the constant IV drips and chemotherapy.

“It was just something that helped me a lot to get my mind off of cancer,” said Austin. “Usually when you’re in the hospital, it’s like chemo, chemo, more chemo. Whenever they came in, you can talk about basketball completely. It takes your mind off of it.”

Austin had the opportunity to visit the university. He got a tour of the players’ dorms as well as played basketball with them on the Carlow hardwood.

When asked how important Connecting Champions was to his mental health, Austin said, “They helped me through so much, and they actually sit down and talk to me and come visit me. Even when I was lonely, they were there.”

In addition to Connecting Champions pairing Austin with the Carlow players, he threw out the first pitch at a 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates game.

“That was crazy. I never thought anything like that would come out of this… We just went to a Pirates game and threw the first pitch. You don’t hear many people doing that.”

Austin just graduated from Blackhawk High School this spring and will be studying nursing next year. He just recently celebrated being declared three years cancer-free!

Activity Kits

National Geographic Science Magic Kit

​Help 8-year-old Joe

Future Scientist

Get a science experiment kit to explore with his mentor!

​Help 9-year-old Myla

Future Artist

Get art supplies to create with her mentor!

Help 23-year-old Erik

Future Coffee Barista

Get coffee supplies to learn how to create specialty drinks with his mentor!

The pandemic showed many people what social isolation is really like. It also showed there are many other great ways to connect. That’s why we launched our activity kits. These mailed out packages provide fun activities for our mentors and kids/young adults to do together — virtually.

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