Fighting Cancer One Head at a Time

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- They came, they saw, they conquered. That's what the t-shirt said. No, it was not referring to North Carolina's victory over Clemson on Saturday, but to "BaseBald for the Cure" manager Chase Jones's mission to beat cancer.

After the Tar Heels tackled the Tigers, they took down cancer. Players, coaches and fans, including a group of young ladies, participated in getting their heads buzzed to raise money to fight cancer. All funds will go to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Pediatric Oncology Unit.

"It just melts your heart how much passion he's got for this," said Judith Jones, Chase's mother. "And even the passion rubbing off to girls to shave their heads. It's unbelievable."

Last year's event raised $6000. The goal for this year's BaseBald for the Cure was $10,000, but the generosity of fans and the community went well above and beyond the call, as the total eclipsed the $15,000 barrier.

"I'm speechless, because I'm so blown away by the giving nature of this community, and how people rallied around the idea that we really could make an impact," Jones said. "This is unbelievable."

For Jones, this is personal. In 2006, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He goes back every six months for MRIs, but has been declared cancer-free. He credits his faith in God and his doctor at UNC Hospitals for saving him. Jones is thankful he can now be an inspiration to others, especially children who are battling cancer.

"It's a unique experience when you go through cancer," Jones said. "I think that the relationship you have with anybody else that's gone through it is a tight one, and one that can't be matched by anything else."

Jones and his family were able to see first-hand the inspiration he is providing others, as parents and their sick children came to meet and thank him and his family on Saturday.

All the Greensboro, N.C. senior ever wanted was to be a part of the Carolina Baseball program. Not letting cancer hold him back from his favorite past time, Jones started out as a manager, but his duties later evolved into being the bullpen catcher, and a member of the UNC baseball team as a player.

"Chase is a special kid," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "Just what he's meant to our program, and how he has shown the other players you can get involved in something, and not let something that happened to you be a negative, but turning it into a positive. Chase has not ever been on the field for us as a player, but he's done more for our program than any player that has."

Seeing all of the families come out with their kids who have been affected by or are fighting cancer is what speaks the most to Fox.

"All you have to do is go up to that pediatric oncology unit one time, and see those kids, and if you don't get tugged at a little bit, you're not human," Fox said.

Jones's father, Buddy, remembers bringing Chase to his first North Carolina football game when he was eight years old. After the game he told his dad that one day he was going to attend school at UNC. The elder Jones told his son, "You better make good grades."

When it came time, they went together to meet with Fox, telling him about Chase's dream to be a part of the baseball team.

After 45 minutes, Fox welcomed Jones as a part of the program. Jones wanted to put the uniform on, but Fox told him, "The only way you do that is if you're the bullpen catcher."

"He never caught in his life," the elder Jones said. "[He spent] that summer with Coach [Matt] McCay, who coached the Thomasville High-Toms, and Chase was his bullpen catcher. He got beat up all summer long, and came back the next fall and Coach Fox said, ‘I want to see it.' He caught like he had been doing it all his life, and [Fox] said, ‘You're our bullpen catcher.'"

In his time at North Carolina, Jones has lived his dream of getting to be a Tar Heel baseball player and is about to graduate from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, but the biggest mark he will leave on Chapel Hill is how he helped others. Looking back on the last five years, Jones says he would not change anything.

"God blessed me with a brain tumor, which sounds awful, but it's the best thing to ever happen to me," Jones said.

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