Ducks and Beavers spend day on river with kids who faced cancer

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - It's 7:30 in the morning, five days before fall camp begins for the Duck and Beaver football teams.

Pancakes, sausage and bacon are the fuel for a day on the McKenzie River.

Eight Duck and Beaver football players are here to hang out with kids from Candlelighters, a non-profit organization for children affected by cancer.

"Every month we come up with an activity for the families that includes everybody because one of the important things is to also include siblings because the whole journey is tough on siblings, too," said Mary Lou Bradley, co-chair of Candlelighters.

Five-year-old Cresi lost his younger brother to the disease. On this day, decked out in orange and black Oregon State gear, he quickly formed a friendship with beavers defensive lineman Noke Tago. 

Other Candlelighters bonded with the players, and soon it was time to fish.

Ducks sophomore linebacker Torrodney Prevot was in a boat with Thomas, a 13-year-old from Medford who has beaten Hodgkin's lymphoma not once, but twice. 

"To hear his background and hear his story, it's been a blessing to be around him," Prevot said.

The chemotherapy, the radiation treatments, the surgeries - none of it was able to dampen Thomas' spirits.

"I just do stuff for fun," he said. "I kind of don't think of it, I just start doing stuff and the doctors will come and say it's time to do this, and I say OK. Then I leave again and go play."

Floating down the McKenzie, the topic of conversation wasn't cancer but their love of "Call of Duty and career aspirations.

"You want to be a chef? That's cool," Prevot said. "What's your favorite food?"

"Steak."

"Oh yeah, my man."

Then the fish started to bite.

"You must have talked to the fish before coming out," Prevot said. "That's what it was. You had a pregame speech."

After nearly two hours, Prevot finally caught his first, but then ran into some trouble. Thomas' advice: stick to football.

For the kids, it was a day to forget about the bad and instead enjoy the good things life has to offer.

For the players, it was a healthy dose of perspective.

"They are some strong kids and they are hilarious, too," said Elijah George, freshman offensive lineman for the Ducks. "It shows how blessed we are."

"These kids face these things at a very young age and it's kind of sad," said Rommel Mageo, a sophomore linebacker for Oregon State. "I'm just glad to be here and have fun with them."