St. Jude patient Mason and YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton

St. Jude patient Mason and YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton at the 2018 Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

Reeling 'em in

 
 

On the Mississippi River in Wabasha, Minn., an unlikely friendship was born between St. Jude patient Mason and YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton was born.

 

YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton and 8-year-old Mason are both cancer survivors, yet the friendship they built at the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic transcends their shared medical history — and their mutual love of fishing.

“We just clicked,” said Newton, who emceed the event. “Mason just loves life, he’s fun and he makes people laugh. He likes to entertain, and he’s just a good kid. I told him I had ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), but he didn’t care. We just talked about fishing and having fun.”

“Everywhere I went, Mason had to go with me,” Newton said.

The event, which gave the fishing buddies and fellow ALL survivors a chance to bond, also raised a record-setting $660,294 to help support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, surpassing the organizers’ fundraising goal by 81%.

Anglers at the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

Anglers at the 2018 Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

 Newton credits the event’s success to the dedicated fundraising of the anglers (also known as fishermen) — and the innately competitive nature of bass fishing.

 

Fishing is about bragging rights, and it’s about being competitive, but what the St. Jude Bass Classic has done is cause these guys to compete against each other to see who can raise the most. They’re doing it for a great cause, and these guys don’t want to let the next guy beat them.

St. Jude supporter Fat Cat Newton

 

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.”

St. Jude patient Mason

St. Jude patient Mason

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.”

St. Jude patient Mason with his dad, Matt (right) and YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton

St. Jude patient Mason with his dad, Matt (right) and YouTube personality Fat Cat Newton

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.

Celebrating at the 2018 Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

Celebrating at the 2018 Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic

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.

 

What other place to share my story, than St. Jude?

Fat Cat Newton

 

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