Newton, a lifelong bass fishing enthusiast, is well-known among anglers for the quick-witted humor and entertaining antics behind his social media persona. A bassmaster.com profile described him as “a mountain man from Virginia who’s known for his silly, lighthearted, often self-deprecating sense of humor.”
According to Mason’s mom, Kimberly, Newton’s personality, sense of humor and country roots instantly drew Mason to him. “Mason is still talking about Fat Cat,” she said.
Mason was diagnosed with ALL, a type of blood cancer, at age 4, after his parents noticed an abnormal number of bruises on his back. After receiving two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy at St. Jude, Mason is done with treatment and able to enjoy his favorite activities, like fishing.
“Mason is amazing,” Newton said. “He’s a little dude with a huge personality.”
Although Newton wasn’t treated at St. Jude, he’s toured the hospital, and his status as a childhood cancer survivor gives him a unique insight on the lifesaving mission of St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food.
“St. Jude does a very special thing. Cancer can not only affect the child, but affect the family,” said Newton. “I saw what it did to my parents and the family surrounding. It’s just awesome how much St. Jude does not just to help the kid, but help the family.”
The Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic has raised nearly $2.7 million for St. Jude since it was founded in 1999.
This year’s event was made up of 92 teams of two, many of whom competitively fundraised year-round in anticipation of the event. For the anglers, the amount of money raised is not only important because of its contribution to St. Jude, but because it determines who gets to launch first, and get a head start on the day’s catch.
This year, anglers had to raise a minimum of $24,000 to qualify to launch in the Top 10.
Although Newton’s YouTube videos regularly draw thousands of viewers, he had never disclosed his childhood ALL diagnosis. As the emcee for the event, Newton was also able to share his difficult experience with childhood ALL for the first time.
“It wasn’t all bad, but having something like St. Jude would have made things a million times better,” Newton said.