- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bradley coach Geno Ford announced Monday the signing of 5-year-old Johnah Sahrs, who has been battling life-threatening cancer, and his older brother 9-year-old Jarret Sahrs for the upcoming season.
Through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization which tries to improve the lives of children with life-threatening diseases, Bradley was connected with Johnah, who is recovering from Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that begins in the adrenal glands and is found in mostly young children. Jonah has been undergoing treatment, which has included six rounds of chemotherapy, an eight-hour surgery to remove a baseball-sized tumor and stem-cell transplants, for the last 1½ years.
“For us, it’s really an amazing opportunity,” the brothers’ mother, Kelly Belinger-Sahrs, said in a phone interview on Monday. “Johnah spent most of the last year and a half in the hospital or not able to participate in childhood activities. For him to be able to have the team’s support, to be involved not just in the community, but Bradley University, its athletics and team, it gives him something he couldn’t do a year ago. For our family, it’s a blessing.”
The brothers signed "letters of intent" on Friday at a ceremony at Bradley’s Renaissance Coliseum. They were given a tour of the facilities by Bradley players Mason Alwan, Anthony Fields, Jordan Prosser and Jordan Swopshire. The four players will serve as mentors to the brothers this season. The brothers will also have lockers with the rest of the team and have been invited to sit on the bench during practices and games.
“It was an easy thing to do, and it feels like we’re really helping the kids,” Ford said in a phone interview on Monday. “I certainly hope we are, and the kids seem to have a great time with our players. That being said, it has been at a very minimum just as good for our players as it has been for them. We’ve probably got the better end of the deal. Johnah has undergone some incredible adversities. I think it puts a lot of things in perspective for our players and coaches about what adversity can mean.”
Johnah and his family will travel to St. Jude’s in Memphis this week for another scanning. Kelly said they were hopeful there would be no traces of cancer found in Johnah’s system.
“This is a big week for us,” Kelly said.
Bradley announced in a press release, “A 3-foot-4-inch guard, Johnah Sahrs will wear uniform number 1. He becomes both the youngest and the shortest player in Bradley Basketball history. Standing 4-foot-5-inches, Jarret Sahrs will wear uniform number 32. “
Johnah’s parents, Timothy Sahrs and Kelly, have created a Facebook page to chronicle their son’s cancer battle. The Facebook page is called “Johnah's Journey: The Neuroblastoma Ninja' s Road to Recovery.”