PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Cameron Mathes looks back at the pictures, the ones of the chubby, bald baby sitting up, and can't believe that it was once him. It is kind of hard to believe that it was once him, considering the Marple Newtown senior wide receiver is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, is a three-sport star who is heading to Villanova on a baseball scholarship.
But it was.
When he was two-years-old, Mathes suffered from leukemia. His tiny body was bloated from the mix of medical concoctions that went into him.
"I was a chubby, bald kid," Mathes says, laughing now.
He can laugh now—he beat it. Though he hasn't forgotten it. Each year he still has to get checked out. He is also a Hero Ambassador for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, the American pediatric cancer charity founded by Alexandra "Alex" Scott to raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily for research into new treatments and cures, and to encourage and empower others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer.
"I see the people who get cancer in my community, and it makes me live life to the fullest, because I can't believe how fortunate I am," says Mathes, who carries 99.9 GPA at Marple Newtown. "It's why it's important that I have to give back. I am part of the cancer community. That chubby, bald baby was me. I never really thought about it, but maybe my drive to do well does come from the chubby, bald baby. I remember when one of my teammates, Mike Shelly, was in the hospital with cancer. I was extra motivated to work hard for him."
On Thursday night, Mathes will be one of 62 high school players in Pennsylvania honored by the prestigious Maxwell Club, at its annual Mini Max dinner at the Drexelbrook Catering Ballroom in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. The awards dinner is open to the public and tickets are available on the Club's website www.maxwellfootballclub.org.
"I wish I had a whole team full of Camerons," said Marple Newtown's football coach Chris Gicking. "He's just a great kid who thinks of others before himself. He's a team captain of our football, basketball and baseball teams. Cameron doesn't walk around telling everyone he had cancer.
"Two years ago, one of our assistant coaches saw him at an Alex Lemonade Stand function and someone asked what he was doing there. He was told Cameron speaks at these functions because he beat cancer. I was like, 'Wait, what?' I didn't know he had cancer. It not speaks well of Cameron, but of his family. They're amazing people."
Perhaps the most the player who may feel the most grateful when he receives his Mini Max is Mathes.
"I don't look at the pictures of myself when I had cancer that often, but every once in a while, when an event pops up, it makes me go back and look back at those pictures," Mathes said. "I don't remember much about that time. I do remember the medications I had to take. My parents had to hold me down to take the daily needles I needed.
"I went through the process for a year-and-a-half for it. I had to take meds for the cancer for almost three years. I took pills, shots, needles. Oh, I remember the times my mom would have to give me the shots at home, and I tried to run away from her. I think it's made me see things differently than a lot of kids my age do, because I'm fortunate to be here. My goal will always be to raise awareness to pediatric cancer."
Mathes plans on living at Villanova and is thinking about maybe taking a picture of the chubby, bald baby as a great reminder of where he once was, and where he is now. Sometimes that's not always an easy thing. When things get tough, because things are always tough, he can find solace in his fight.
"Without the care of my family, and the care of the doctors, I don't know if I would be here, so yes, I'm fortunate, very fortunate," Mathes said.
2016 Mini Maxwell Club Winners
George Reid - Abington
Alliston Augustin - Abraham Lincoln
Kenneth Bennett Jr. - Academy at Palumbo
Raheem Blackshear - Archbishop Wood
Marcus Wilson - Berks Catholic
Max Bryson - Bishop McDevitt
Des Holmes - Cardinal O'Hara
Taten Seyfert - Cedar Crest
Nate Norris - Central Bucks South
Dominic Lorino - Central Bucks West
Brandan Cohen - Conwell Egan
Mason Luff - Council Rock North
Josiah Quigley - Cumberland Valley
Ben Ferree - Dallastown Area
Ryan Okuniewski - Daniel Boone
Seth Davis - Downingtown East
Thomas Melchiorre - East Stroudsburg North
Jake Cirillo East Stroudsburg South
CJ McAnally - Episcopal Academy
Mack Focht - Garden Spot
Jacob Buttermore - Garnet Valley
Patrick McGettigan - Germantown Academy
Mark Derobertis - Great Valley
Chris Thomas - Interboro
Sy Madden - LaSalle College
Daniel Beaver - Lower Dauphin
Justin Tichnell - Malvern Prep
Kody Kegarise - Manheim Central
Cameron Mathes - Marple Newtown
Khalil Nelson - Mastery Charter
Ryan O'Toole - Methacton
Travis Stefanik - Nazereth
Mason Jones - Neshaminy
Matt Fest - New Hope Solebury
Reece Udinski - North Penn
Major Jordan - North Schuylkill
Trevor Cunningham - Northwestern Lehigh
Austin Kaulius - Notre Dame
Nick Duliakas - Owen J. Roberts
Garrett Perschy - Palmerton
Patrick Ferry - Parkland
Tanner Barr - Pen Argyl
Jagger Hartshorn - Pennridge
Connor Horst - Pequea Valley
Stephen Sturm - Perkiomen Valley
Matt Garcia - Phoenixville
Nick Yerger - Pope John Paul II
Ryan Finn - Pottsgrove
Isaiah Mayes - Pottstown
Noah Wood - Quakertown
Samuel Emig - Red Lion
Eric Frankenfield - Salisbury Township
Konstandinos Zaharakis - Saucon Valley
Koby Kahn - Souderton Area
Stone Scarcelle - Spring-Ford
D'Andre Swift - St. Josephs Prep
Trael Seegars - Susquehanna Township
Justin Horn - Upper Dublin
Ryan Brida - West Chester Henderson
Zach Gilbert - Whitehall
Michael Hnatkowsky - William Penn Charter
Mike Schoenleber - Wissahickon
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