When the amount was tallied after last February’s Memphis Open tennis tournament, the ball kids who chased down loose tennis balls to keep the courts clear during matches had raised nearly $27,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
And more than a fourth of that total — $7,398 — was raised by Joshua, a St. Jude patient.
Joshua was the top fundraiser for the Advantage St. Jude Delivered by FedEx fundraising program that gives kids involved in the tournament the opportunity to support St. Jude.
This year, FedEx matched the funds raised by all the kids, bringing the amount to $54,907. The two-year program has raised almost $94,000 to help ensure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
Joshua on his last day of chemo at St. Jude.
Joshua began playing tennis at the age of 7, and was ranked in the top 200 for boys 12 and under when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in 2014. Treatment included three weeks of chemotherapy at a time for nine months. His doctors, well aware of Joshua’s love for tennis, were able to keep his range of motion intact when removing the tumor from his rib.
His mother, Deanna, describes Joshua, now 15, as an optimistic, good-natured kid. He was eager to get back to tennis and didn’t wait for his treatment to end. “His coaches encouraged him to stick with it,” Deanna says. “He used to have tennis six days a week, but not during treatment. During chemo, with his doctor’s approval, he tried to get through a 30-minute lesson. He would go as much as he could.”
St. Jude patient Joshua (second from left) and his family.
His drive and dedication didn’t stop on the court. As a ball kid during the Memphis Open, he jumped into fundraising for St. Jude, asking his school to dedicate the money raised during special events to the hospital. And he got his mom and aunt — both teachers — to get their schools in on the act. He also used social media and word of mouth to raise funds for St. Jude. “When it comes to St. Jude,” Deanna says, “he takes initiative.”
Today, Joshua plays on his high school tennis team and works to emulate his favorite tennis player, Rafael Nadal. His mother is just thankful that St. Jude was there to rush the net when her son was in need. “I am blessed and grateful,” she says. “I could never reimburse St. Jude for what they did, for what they do.”