A student diagnosed with small cell lung cancer is thankful one of his coaches helped raise money to pay for his medical expenses by growing his beard.
Ben Davis High School physical education and health teacher Jake O’Neill started growing his beard in October. It has become a tradition for him to grow his beard at the beginning of the wrestling season.
This October was different. He, along with several other coaches, were told one of their wrestlers was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Wallace Stovall Jr., 10, has been fighting the cancer for about four months. He is a 4th grade student at Rhoades Elementary School in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.
While O’Neill would have shaved his beard after the state finals, he decided not to.
“Junior’s mom, she sent me a link (about) a guy who was raising money with his beard for Riley and I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that that’s easy’,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill went online and was able to get people to donate money to go toward Stovall’s medical expenses. O’Neill said he enjoyed helping a student.
“Junior’s got such a great personality, super sharp, straight A student. I love what I do because of opportunities like this. There’s nothing that can warm your heart as much as something like this,” O’Neill said.
Stovall’s mother, Stephanie Weddle, said small cell lung cancer is rare. Stovall has been to various doctor appointments, since he was diagnosed. She said her son has had chemotherapy.
“They usually don’t catch it in children. (It is found) more in adults. We went in with the common cold,” Weddle said.
Weddle said her son is strong and continues to wrestle.
“That’s what makes it easy, I think, he’s taking it so well so it helps everyone else. He’s an inspiration,” Weddle said.
O’Neill’s goal was to raise $1,000. He raised it in five days. Once he reached his goal, O’Neill shaved his beard.
“I want to say thank you to everyone whether I know you or I don’t. I (want to say) thank you,” Weddle said.
Stovall said he feels thankful for what everyone did for him. He loved the support.
O’Neill said he would be a part of a fundraiser for Stovall again.
“He represents Wayne Township and Ben Davis wrestling to the fullest and couldn’t be more proud of how he’s handled this situation and how mature he’s acted through this situation,” O’Neill said.
Weddle said, in the future, her son would like to donate to other children. Stovall will undergo chemo for a third time on Friday.
O’Neill said people should follow #TeamWallace. You can also donate online.