By Kim DeRaedt
Fourteen-year-old Andrew McDonough was the epitome of a B+ player and person, and now youth across the Northeast are striving to earn the same recognition. No, this is not an academic compromise where an A+ reigns king. Instead, B+ has nothing to do with a grade; it’s an attitude.
“Be positive” was McDonough’s blood type, attitude, and mission in his 167-day battle with a severe case of leukemia and sepsis. Told he wouldn’t live another day, the high school freshman persevered for nearly six months and inspired millions, yes millions, in the process.
“Andrew’s Story” is a tale of friendship, family, bravery, perseverance, and inspiration all covered with goodness and wrapped around soccer. It’s like a jelly-filled doughnut where the outside is great, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
Andrew was a stellar soccer player no doubt. On a cold Saturday in January, the 14-year-old was drenched in sweat as he smiled and lifted the Pennsylvania Indoor State Championship trophy, a product of four game’s work that day with his FC Delco squad. Two days later, McDonough was brought to the hospital after complaining of pain in his side. Surely it was more than a case of the Mondays, but his family had anticipated appendicitis. A diagnosis of leukemia followed by major septic shock and emergency resuscitation before the night was over was not what the family had bargained for.
Doctors said Andrew wouldn’t make it through the night, but they had no idea who they were talking to. Andrew was fit; his heart was strong. Soccer will do that to a person of course. More importantly, his heart was good. It had been for 14 years, and it would be through his 167-day victory. After all, how else does the AI duPont Hospital ICU’s “sickest child they’ve ever seen” survive?
Through leukemia and infections, eye surgery and brain surgery (150+ surgeries in all), Andrew’s parents stood by his side. Their love was as unfailing as his heart. McDonough’s mom and dad quit their jobs and moved into his hospital room. His sister rushed from school to the hospital to do homework at his bedside. While Andrew’s family was supporting him inside, his friends were busy supporting him beyond the brick and mortar. They organized meals to arrive at his room each and every night and began each school day with a prayer. Their daily routine didn’t stop there, however. A bank account was set up to help cover expenses, and donations flooded in from throughout the country. Prayer vigils and moments of silence, 5k fundraisers and charity sports matches were held in his name. Handmade posters and t-shirts were seen throughout private and public, distant and rival schools alike.
The 1.25 million “friends” who visited Andrew’s CaringBridge website all said they felt like they knew the straight-“A” student from Salesianum High School in Wilmington, Delaware. One look at the outgoing curly-haired blonde would tell you he was just “that kind of person.”
“Play like Andrew” became a motivator within high school teams, and young soccer players asked, “What would Andrew do?” Andrew would do good, that’s what he’d do and that’s what he had done throughout his life. Unbeknown to McDonough, his B+ attitude had rubbed off on all whom he had met, and his story would impact thousands whom he hadn’t. B+ wasn’t an act that Andrew pulled off on the field or even in the classroom; it was a habit.
His “good” was an all-time thing, and McDonough’s parents wanted to ensure that his legacy lived on. The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation is broken down into three objectives all supporting a central “Do good” mission.
1. Do good by providing financial support to families of critically ill children. Over $400,000 has been donated to 500 families across 35 states to date.
2. Do good by funding medical research for pediatric cancers and improvements in chemotherapy. The Nemours Center for Childhood Cancer Research benefited from the foundation’s first research grant totaling $250,000.
3. Do good by spreading the B+ message and helping others to “Live Like Andrew”—to set goals, try your best, show affection, and be comfortable with yourself. Andrew’s father has spoken to over 150 groups including school and sports, church and service groups.
As a mother of a child with cancer conveyed,”Words cannot express my extreme gratitude of thanks for the wonderful generosity that you have shown our family in our desperate time of need. It is comforting to know that there are still so many wonderful people that are willing to help… We are truly blessed to be included in the phenomenal B+ Nation.”
The teenage president of the “B+ Nation” would never want words to describe his story; he’d want actions to illustrate his ideals. After all, a written book has so many chapters and then it ends. Andrew’s legacy will forever live on and inspire courageous sick children and young soccer prodigies alike. Now that’s good!