Football team manager inspires as he battles cancer

September 15, 2018

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Clarkdale football manager Jordan Kemble entered the school’s cafeteria just before 5:30 p.m. to a thunderous applause. The sophomore barely made it through the doors before receiver/defensive back Jonathon Ford waved him over and pulled him in for an embrace.

Kemble, wearing a salmon-colored shirt and jeans, made his way from table to table to share hugs and laughs with the Clarkdale football players he considers his brothers.

The Clarkdale community gathered the evening of Sept. 5 to join Kemble for his Make-A-Wish Foundation Wish Reveal ceremony, where it was announced that Kemble and three family members will head to Walt Disney World Sept. 20 for a seven-day and six-night stay.

“I’m speechless a little bit because this is my true family,” said Kemble, in between taking pictures with friends. “They’ve played for me, they’ve donated for me, they do a lot. I guess what I’m trying to say is they’re. I can’t even put it into words. They’re just there.”

In August 2016, Dr. Don E. Marascalco discovered that Kemble had a brain tumor, and a month later it was learned during surgery that the tumor was malignant. He began treatment in September 2016 that lasted seven months, and he now has Stage 4 medulloblastoma.

Kemble, 15, has been involved with Clarkdale football since his eighth-grade year, and he has been a fixture at games and practices when he’s been physically able to do so. Tonya Kemble said her son’s commitment to Clarkdale has never wavered, despite his battle with cancer.

“The whole time through this, the only thing he was worried about was coming back to school and seeing his friends, because he loves school,” she said. “So it was the only thing he was worried about through the whole entire thing, missing school.”

Clarkdale fullback/linebacker Troy Dukes said Kemble’s strength and resilience have been sources of inspiration for the Clarkdale football team and student body.

“Jordan is always out here at practices and games, standing there and watching, and he’s a motivation and inspiration for all of these guys,” Dukes said. “He fights so hard, and it just reminds us how blessed we are and how blessed he is to see another day that God can continue to allow him to fight and motivate us.”

Clarkdale head coach Jason Soules was hired in April, and it didn’t take long for him to become acquainted with Kemble. The youngster sought him out and introduced himself as Clarkdale football’s team manager. Kemble’s charisma quickly engulfed Soules.

“If every player on this team had the courage he has, we’d be unstoppable,” Soules said. “He is just a ray of positivity every time you see him. He makes our players feel good about themselves, and he’s just an amazing kid. Everything he does personifies what you want out of somebody. You think about the way things should be, and the best things in life, and he’s that. Our kids love him to death.”

Lisa Smiley and her daughter, Crystal Price, are Make-A-Wish Foundation Wish Granters for the Meridian area. Smiley and Price met the Kemble family a year ago and interviewed Jordan about his Make-A-Wish request. He was given three choices, and he quickly responded with Walt Disney World.

“That’s all he talked about; that’s what he wanted to do,” Smiley said. “It takes about a good year to get a wish granted because there are so many, and everything has to be planned and scheduled.”

In May, Smiley and Price contacted Jordan to let him know his wish to visit Walt Disney World was granted. The mother-and-daughter duo was in attendance Sept. 5 to announce the reveal.

“He has been a blessing,” Smiley said. “He is a sweet child. He’s got a sweet family, and when we walked in, he came running over and said, ‘I can’t believe it’s been a year. I’ve been waiting for this day.’ And that makes it worth it all — it really does.”

Although that Wednesday’s ceremony was about Kemble, he deflected any talk about his sacrifices, and instead preferred to pour praise on his Clarkdale football brothers for their support and friendship. That sense of selflessness also determined Kemble’s Wish requests.

A few months after Kemble finished treatment last year, a friend he met at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital succumbed to medulloblastoma. Kemble will visit Walt Disney World in his honor.

“I had friends in the hospital, and one did not make it, unfortunately,” Kemble said. “His name was Jude. so I am going for him. We were like brothers.”

Four Make-A-Wish T-shirts, four luggage tags and a handful of buttons and wristbands rested on one of the brown tables in Clarkdale’s cafeteria. Tonya Kemble grabbed a bright-colored T-shirt and claimed it. Although Jordan’s diagnosis has brought pain to the Kemble family, he has displayed an unflappable faith that has inspired all who have come in contact with him. For one night, the Clarkdale community was able to wrap its arms around him and reciprocate a tiny bit of the goodwill he’s shown over the last two years.

“It’s an honor,” Kemble said. “I’m excited. I never thought in a million years that I’d be able to go because my family is a very hard-working family, and I didn’t want them to do this. But I’m happy that Make-A-Wish is letting me do this. It’s an honor.”


Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com