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Hall-of-Famers Have Heroes, Too

Forty-five legendary athletes gather at Lansdowne Resort in support of young boy’s bout with cancer.

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Honorary chairman Bobby Mitchell, alongside Joey Norris, 2009 Patient Hero, with his family and event co-chairs, Tammy Darvish of DARCARS and Todd Heavner of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, pose for a picture at the Bobby Mitchell Toyota Hall of Game Golf Classic.

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008 was a summer day like any other. The Norris family was spending it at Rehobeth Beach, and parents Margaret and Jim Norris were watching their children goof around on a jungle gym. For a moment, their lives were stress-free.

But Tommy, their youngest son, fell on middle son Joey, who was 10 at the time. The accident seemed minor, but Joey Norris immediately began to complain of pain in his side. He quickly became too uncomfortable to have any fun at the beach and started to sleep away the vacation.

It was odd behavior for a young boy, so Jim Norris decided to take him to the Kaiser Urgent Care Center. It was there that Joey was diagnosed with leukemia.

“When we found out that he had cancer, Joey asked us in the hospital: ‘Dad, I don’t have like, diabetes or cancer do I?’” said Jim Norris, “and I said, ‘Actually Joey, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is yes, you have cancer. But the good news is this is one that we can beat.”

“There was a little pause, and a couple tears were shed,” Jim Norris said, “and then after that he said, ‘OK, what do I have to do?’”

Despite entering the urgent care center with a white blood cell count of 336,000 -- the average person has 5,000-6,000, and the average leukemia patient has 50,000 -- Joey Norris was in remission within a week. Now, nearly one year later, he was chosen as the “patient hero” at the 19th Annual Bobby Mitchell Toyota Hall of Fame Golf Classic, an event that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Mitchell, who played professional football for the Cleveland Browns but spent most of his NFL days in a Washington Redskins uniform, partnered with LLS 19 years ago to help the nearly 900,000 Americans currently battling various blood cancers.

A Hall-of-Famer himself (Class of 1983), Mitchell has dedicated his time to getting athletes to show their support for the fight against leukemia and lymphoma.

The July 12 golf tournament saw 45 athletes show up to support Joey Norris and his family.

“I think it goes without saying all the tremendous accomplishments Hall of Famers achieve during their careers in basketball and football,” said LLS President Peter Ferrone. “But I think it’s much more important what they’re doing with their careers supporting a cause like [LLS].”

In the 19 years the tournament has existed, Mitchell and Co. have raised more than $6 million. After thanking everyone for coming to tournament, Margaret Norris described exactly how that money would help fight blood cancer.

“The funds raised this weekend will help fund research and treatment options to help children like Joey be able to spend less and less time in the hospital bed, in waiting rooms and in clinics … and more time at home and at school,” said Margaret Norris, during the July 10 tournament kickoff.

The road to recovery from cancer is not easy for anyone, and it will be no different for Joey Norris as he undergoes chemotherapy for the next three years. However, he has been in remission ever since the initial scare, and has already proven he is anything but a quitter.