When Whittles couldn't make it to Friday night's game, the assistant coaches took the team on a little detour on their way to face No. 2 Calvert Hall. The bus stopped at North Arundel Hospital for a visit with their Papa Bear.
- Mike Whittles
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Archbishop Spalding High School, 8080 New Cut Rd, Severn, MD 21144-2399, USA
The Cavaliers lost the game, 26-23, but they rallied from a 21-0 deficit to make it a close game — one Whittles followed from the hospital through text messages from athletic director Lee Dove.
Nick Whittles, who played for his dad at Spalding and now plays at Salisbury, said football is one of the things sustaining his father through his illness.
"That team, I wish I could thank every one of those kids," Nick Whittles, 21, said. "I know they mean the world to my dad, each and every one of them, because that's what he looks forward to every day. He gets up in the morning and I'm sure the first thing he thinks about is, 'I can't wait to get to football,' because when he's out there I know he doesn't even think about cancer. He just loves it."
This fall, Whittles' inspirational battle has reached far beyond the Spalding campus. Coaches in the Anne Arundel County and MIAA football community have rallied around him.
Poggi, whose coaching staff wore T-shirts emblazoned with "Keep fighting Coach Whittles!" during Gilman's game against the Cavaliers earlier this month, donated $10,000 in Whittles' name to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins.
The Cavaliers held a fundraising night last month during their game against McDonogh, and they continue to sell purple wristbands to support pancreatic cancer research. They've also sold T-shirts with "Make every day count" on the back.
Whittles, who has been undergoing chemotherapy since March, will begin radiation treatments next month. He said that doesn't mean he's gotten worse. It's just another stage in his battle against a disease that is almost always diagnosed in the latter stages.
He hasn't been shy about sharing his story and that has brought many prayers to a man whose Catholic faith remains as strong as ever.
"I think the more people that know, the more prayers I'll have," Whittles said. "I had a parent at a lacrosse game say, 'Coach, how can God say no to children? You've got all these kids praying for you.' Prayer is definitely powerful. It certainly has kept me where I am. I wish I could thank each and every person out there who has said a prayer. It's just been phenomenal."