Published on Thursday, October 19, 2017
Media Contact: Annie Oeth
The day was surreal for Thomas Blanks.
A true-maroon Bulldogs fan, the 10-year-old from Madison got to walk across Scott Field and hear the roar of the crowd and the clanging of thousands of cowbells, including his own. He then was cheering on his team to a 37-7 victory against LSU.
Sept. 16 wasn’t a dream, though. Being the Children’s of Mississippi Kid Captain for Mississippi State University’s first home game against a Southeastern Conference rival was more like a dream come true.
“The entire thing was amazing! I will never forget it,” Thomas said. “And we beat LSU! Best experience ever!”
Blanks was one of four 2017 Children’s of Mississippi Kid Captains for Mississippi State’s SEC home games, and four Children’s of Mississippi Kid Captains will be cheering on the University of Mississippi at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this season.
Representing the Ole Miss side of things this past Saturday was Fred Johnson of Indianola, who was Kid Captain for the Rebels’ 57-35 victory over Vanderbilt.
“He was so excited to be there,” said Monica Johnson, Fred’s mother. “He was treated like a celebrity, and being there for the coin toss and meeting all the football players was a great experience. He hasn’t stopped talking about it since.”
The Johnson family, including Fred and his four siblings, made a family trip to Oxford on game day. “That made it fun, because we did this together.”
Fred, 16, went to the dentist in April 2016 for what was thought to be an abscessed tooth. After the infection didn’t subside, Fred’s tooth was removed and a biopsy followed. The results showed a malignancy, and Fred was immediately referred to the Children’s Cancer Center at Batson Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He immediately began chemotherapy and spent about three weeks in the hospital undergoing treatment. He continues to receive treatment at the Children’s Cancer Center. He and his mother travel from Indianola to Jackson twice a week for appointments.
Batson Children’s Hospital child life specialist Tiffany Key said Fred was a great choice for Kid Captain.
“He has the best attitude and never complains. And he is a huge sports fan – all sports, but especially football.”
Dr. Anderson Collier, Fred’s oncologist, agrees. “Fred loves to laugh and smile,” he said. “I know when he is not feeling well because he is not smiling. But even in those times, he has a great attitude and determination that he will beat cancer and go on with his life.”
Thomas, who has epilepsy, is learning all he can about the disorder, said his neurologist, Dr. Brad Ingram. “He’s my only patient who can pronounce ‘epileptologist’ and is an absolute missionary about the field of epilepsy,” Ingram said. “Thomas is brilliant, tough, hilarious, and an absolutely amazing kid. It is my long-term plan to train him to be my replacement and then retire to a beach somewhere!”
The Kid Captain program is a way Children’s of Mississippi works together with State and Ole Miss to create memories for patients and their families, said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “Getting to meet their favorite college football players, visit a locker room and walk to midfield for a coin toss are incredible experiences for these children, and we thank MSU and Ole Miss for helping make this possible.”
Upcoming Children’s of Mississippi Kid Captains include:
Oct. 21, Ole Miss vs. LSU: Emery Ott of McComb
Oct. 21, MSU vs. Kentucky: De’Nahri Middleton of Jackson
Oct. 28, Ole Miss vs. Arkansas: Trinley Camp of Brandon
Nov. 11, MSU vs. Alabama: Josh McIntosh of Madison
Nov. 18, Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M: Victor “VJ” Worrell of Vicksburg
Nov. 23, MSU vs. Ole Miss: Patrick Nason of Meridian
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