Joey's story


9:30 a.m. ET

The 19th Annual Bobby Mitchell/TOYOTA Hall of Fame Golf Classic was one of the best charity golf tournaments I have ever attended. Bobby Mitchell and the over 40 Hall of Famers attending helped raise $450,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this year in a very tough economy which is truly amazing.

There was a Hall of Fame reception Friday night where I spent a lot of time talking to my Eagles buddy Tommy McDonald reminiscing about the days he played for the Eagles and giving him a hard time for playing with the Cowboys for a year. Larry Little and Bobby Bell had control of the room telling jokes and keeping everyone laughing. Randall McDaniel and his wife Marianne were there and we talked a long time about his speech. Randall is so excited for the weekend. He is like a kid in a candy store and just wishes he did not have to speak at the Enshrinement Ceremony! 

We had a practice round on Saturday and I learned that Roger Wehrli and Paul Krause were the ringers in the group. They tore up the course in the practice round. The weather was pretty nice as well for DC in July- mid 80’s. Saturday night was the big silent and live auctions. There were some great things to bid on in the silent auction. In the live auction a trip for two to play Pebble Beach went for over $12,000! The dinner was great and all of the Hall of Famers interacted with the crowd of 400 or so. The highlight of the night was hearing about some of the kids and the patient/hero Joey Norris (I will fill you in on his story at the end of the blog).

{GALLERY}The tournament Sunday morning was a scramble format on two courses. My group included Yale Lary. Yale is 78 years old and still has an incredible touch. Yale lipped out a 40-foot putt on the first hole, and then made a 28-foot putt on the second hole for birdie! What was ironic about his putt on the second hole was that it was 28 feet and he wore number 28! As you golfers can tell from the length of our first two putts we did not finish near the top score of 57. We shot a 66 which was good for 6-under and middle of the pack. It was a great day and everyone had fun. My wife (Lisa) and I could not get a flight out Sunday night so we stayed and had dinner with Mel Renfro and his wife Liz along with Bob St. Clair. They told story after story in the bar and we all had a bunch of laughs. We all couldn’t believe that we are less than a month away from Hall of Fame weekend and welcoming Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Derrick Thomas, Randall McDaniel, Bob Hayes and Ralph Wilson, Jr. in as the new Class this year.

So back to Joey Norris who was the patient/hero honored this year by Bobby Mitchell. This kid and his family are amazing. I have two young kids of my own, Bryn and Peter, and I cannot imagine going through what they have all had to go through. Joey is one of the cutest and nicest kids I have ever met. He is a huge Eagles and NFL fan. He was so appreciative of everything. He has great stage presence as he got up in front of everyone Saturday night and spoke to the crowd. He made up a great poem which showed his toughness and sense of humor. I am confident Joey will beat this with a smile on his face! I have attached Joey’s story.

Joey's Story:

The day Joey was born at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD, a nurse declared him the most beautiful baby she had ever seen. The quintessential middle child, Joey has two brothers. All three boys are 37 months apart and while they'll say they fight, they don't. The boys are very close and have always gotten along beautifully.  Joey is named for his maternal grandfather who died in a plane accident in 1986. Joey's maternal grandmother and paternal grandparents are actively involved in his life, all three of them living nearby. Joey also has 22 aunts and uncles and 17 first cousins as well as a large extended family.

Joey struggled when he was little with ear infections and subsequent ear surgeries which impacted his speech development.  He is an excellent student who prefers math and science to reading...Unless the reading involves sports.
Joey is a sport, especially football, fanatic. Give him any number and he'll tell you a football player, their team and position. Joey reads his Sports Illustrated weekly and has to be pried away from the NFL Network. Both of his parents are born and raised Redskin fans who attend games regularly. The family den has the obligatory framed poster of John Riggins pushing off a defender in the Redskin/Miami Super Bowl XVII as well as memorabilia from the last game at RFK and countless other Redskin knickknacks.
When Joey was 5, he was talking to his about Dad football teams. He mentioned that he liked birds so Jim listed the bird teams, adding that Joey could be a fan of anyone but the Eagles; if he was an Eagles fan, he'd have to move out. Well, that cemented it for Joey. He became an instant and diehard Eagles fan. That season Philadelphia went to the Super Bowl, which confirmed for Joey that he had made the right choice and all of his family is wrong.  One summer while walking in the parking lot at Fenwick Island beach, Joey commented on the Eagles sticker on a van. When told that Joey was an Eagles fan being raised by Redskins, the man who owned the van, and was unloading several little girls said to him, "Well come on! I need a boy." Margaret had to grab Joey by the back of the T-shirt to stop him from running over.
Joey played a year of touch football in 3rd grade and joined the tackle Rockville Bears team in the fourth grade. It was a match made in heaven and Joey loves playing. He played baseball in the spring of '08 and rejoined his Bears in August of '08. Unfortunately, he only made it to a handful of practices before his illness was diagnosed.
On Wednesday, August 13, 2008, Joey was playing in a jungle gym at the Rehoboth Beach Funland with his brothers. In the first of many miracles for the family, Tommy (his little brother) fell on him. Joey immediately began to complain about a pain in his side which the family assumed was a bruised rib. He was lethargic and too uncomfortable to enjoy the beach or to practice with the Bears that Friday. On Saturday, the Bears had a full pad practice which Joey attended but didn't participate in. He mostly slept all weekend. On Sunday, Jimmy decided that he wanted Joey to be examined at the Kaiser Urgent Care Center because he realized that when Joey pointed to where it hurt, he was really indicating a spot below the ribs.
In the second miracle of August, the doctor freelancing in the center that day is a pediatric oncologist. Jim sent Margaret a text that Joey had an enlarged spleen and they were running blood tests. Margaret, Zach and Tommy were at the pool but headed home at that point. Jim then sent Margaret a text that she should go to the center. Based solely on the blood work, Dr. Cooper was able to make an immediate, if unofficial, diagnosis of leukemia. Joey and his parents headed to National Children's Medical Center where Joey was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
A normal white blood count is between 5 and 6 thousand. A "normal" leukemia count is 50,000. Joey's white blood count at admission was 336,000 and peaked at 364,000 while he was in the PICU.  Joey's official diagnosis is high risk T-cell Acute Lymphoma Leukemia.
Joey spent 5 days in the PICU receiving huge quantities of fluids to combat the high white count. Due to a mass of cells in the lymph nodes in his chest, surgery to insert a Broviac line had to be delayed 3 days so he had to endure numerous IV line insertions. A deal that he would receive $5.00 a line helped get him through 12 pokes in 2½ days, but that was money hard earned. A vein specialist had to be called in at one point and when she found out about his deal, she offered to stick him 20 times and they could split the difference ~ Joey politely declined her offer but appreciated her comment that he would receive needle pokes while in surgery and should be paid for those as well. Following successful surgery on Wednesday, he was released from the PICU Thursday and transferred to the Hematology and Oncology (Hemonc) floor at Children's.  Margaret and Jim were warned that he could be there up to 3 months. Margaret took long term leave from her teaching position and friends and family mobilized the troops to help all the Norris'. 
Miracle number 3 was that Joey went into remission in one week and, thankfully, has stayed in remission since.  Defying all expectations, Joey was sent home on Thursday August 28th. Due to his high white count presentation, he is being aggressively treated and received 10 days of radiation at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. His primary doctor at Children's is Dr. Anne Angiolillo.
Throughout Joey's treatment he has been remarkably patient as well as a remarkable patient. With the exception of his PEG leg shots, Joey has not complained about his treatments. His family has strived from the beginning to give Joey as much ownership over his treatment as possible. He flushes his Broviac line by himself everyday and keeps his myriad of pills organized. During the long trips to Baltimore, he maintained his sense of humor giving his radiation team a new personal fact everyday when they asked for his name and birthday.  When he had to have home chemo treatments, one of his nurses asked if a health tech came to the house for them.  She was surprised, to say the least, when she learned that Joey gave himself the vial and was greatly impressed when he told her his routine: saline flush, say 3 Hail Mary's while pushing the chemo, another slow saline push and then a heparin flush.
Joey has received a tremendous amount of support from his family, friends and community. The Rockville Football League has been extremely generous and his beloved Bears dedicated their season to him and added his initials to their jerseys. The St. Jude's team has "JN" stickers on their helmets due to Joey's close friendship with one of the players and his father, a coach for the team.  The quarterback of the Wootton High School football team, Mike Mooney, has become a friend as well.  Mike gave Joey an autographed ball during a team practice and had him on the sidelines during their win over Churchill HS.  Mike has also been to the house a couple times to play video games with him. When Mike was a "Face in the Crowd" in Sports Illustrated, Joey was beside himself that someone he had "smoked" in video basketball was in his favorite magazine!
Continuing the football theme, Joey received a St. Joseph medal from Charlie Wooters, a family friend who as an adult beat cancer. Charlie had received the medal from Tim Strachan, a familiar name to football fans in the DC area. T was a rising senior at DeMatha High School in August of 1993 when he dove into a wave at Bethany Beach, DE.  Hitting a sandbar, he fractured his spine and injured his spinal cord. T was one of the top five nationally ranked quarterbacks before his accident. Ironically, Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb were two of the remaining five.
Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles have been amazing in their support of Joey. Mr. McNabb has received requests from so many different sources for memorabilia for Joey that the family joke is one of these days he'll probably ask, "If I just go and sign this kid, will people quit asking for things?" Joey has received a football, a helmet, three jerseys and a highlights video from #5. The video has an introduction with Donovan McNabb saying hello to Joey and offering his prayers and support.  Joey has also received hats and jerseys from other Eagles players, as well as other sports teams/figures including the Diamond HS (Anchorage, Alaska) football team.  Shawna Carbone, an employee with the Eagles PR office, has joined the Team Joey LLS Helping Hands website and been incredibly supportive. Through her efforts, Joey was able to attend the Dallas-Eagles game in Philadelphia. While he was too ill to stay for the whole game, the decisive victory by the Eagles made it easier for him to leave early. Thanks to the efforts and generosity of family and friends, Joey was able to get into the press box during the Redskins-Eagles game at FedEx. A sideline pass visit to Baltimore for the Eagles-Ravens game had to be cancelled because Joey was not well enough to attend.
As of January 29, 2009, Joey's 11th birthday, Joey continues to travel down the road to recovery with good humor and courage. He has lost 20 pounds and had to grow up much too quickly but he strives to find small victories and look for the humor in situations. He has at least three months of intense treatment left before his Broviac line can be removed and he will, God willing, enter long term maintenance. We often say "God bless the babies that the doctors learned all of this on" when discussing his complicated and thorough treatment. We are also grateful for all of the research and fundraising that has been accomplished through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We use an LLS website tool, Lotsa Helping Hands, Team Joey to keep people informed and organize support. Joey is VERY excited about the opportunity to work with the Bobby Mitchell/Toyota Hall of Fame Tournament and already has his dream foursome worked out: Joe Namath, Joe Greene, Joe Montana and Joe Norris.


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