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Team 17 Strong: Pro Athletes, Community Rally Around High School Football Player Battling Cancer

What to Know

  • An entire community as well as sports figures across the country are rallying behind a high school football star battling cancer.

  • Jay Wright, JJ Redick and other sports figures sent their well wishes to Berks Catholic student Anthony Myers.

  • Myers’ friends and family created a campaign of support and are raising money for him as he battles brain cancer.

Anthony Myers has dominated on the football field since he was in kindergarten. The now 16-year-old old was nicknamed “the secret weapon” when he was just a tot playing flag football because nobody could catch him.

“I just like the team aspect,” Myers said of the game. “You’re playing the game you love with your brothers.”

So when Myers met the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks back at their home game against the Giants, he was more than excited to say the least.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.

But the meeting came under tough circumstances for the Berks Catholic High School sophomore. He woke up one morning in October and immediately started having a seizure. After his mom rushed him to the hospital, the family got the worst news they could imagine. Myers was diagnosed with Stage 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma, a form of brain cancer.  

Days after his diagnosis, his entire community stepped up to make sure he felt loved and supported. Susan McFadden, the parent of another Berks Catholic student, immediately jumped into action alongside other parents.

“I felt helpless,” McFadden said. “I felt like I can’t do anything about the cancer but I can do something to help them with this fight.”

The group of parents did everything they could to help the Myers family, creating a website as well as t-shirts and organizing fundraisers and social media accounts to spread his story. They coined the term, “Team 17 Strong,” which has come to represent everyone’s support for Myers, #17. 

But the local community members aren’t the only ones thinking of Myers. His message has spread to athletes across the country. 

Several high profile sports figures sent videos to Myers wishing him well, including Villanova basketball head coach Jay Wright, New Orleans Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone, and Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who reps the same #17 as Anthony, invited the teen and his team to the Birds’ home game against the Giants.

“It took my mind off of things,” Myers said of the trip to the Linc. “It was a cool experience seeing all the players I look up to.”

As for the outpouring of support from the community, it’s not stopping anytime soon. Organizers will host a spaghetti dinner at Victor Emmanuel II in Reading on December 19. They will then host a Beef and Beer event at St. Catherine’s Social Hall on January 19 which will include music, dancing, raffles, a cigar bar, and more. Both of these events will raise money for Myers. And while organizers work to plan the events, the Myers family couldn’t be more thankful.

“We use the term silver linings,” Anthony’s father, Ed, explained. “When you see a community and many good people come together to rally around someone who is having a difficult time, it rekindles the understanding of the human spirit and that many good things do happen in this world.”

And though the community realizes emotional support for Myers is paramount, the financial aspect of the disease isn’t lost on them. Some organizers put together a GoFundMe page to raise money for the Myers family in the hopes of giving Myers the chance to receive whatever medical care is necessary. 

While many parents are behind the scenes working to support the family, friends and classmates are chipping in as well. His classmates and teammates have worked together to sell t-shirts and to challenge neighboring districts to get in on the sales. Anthony says the support from everyone helps him every single day. 

“It helps me every day knowing there’s people that really care about me,” Myers said. “It shows goodness can be brought out of a bad situation.”

Myers’ most recent surgery went well, his dad said, and now the family is waiting to decide which steps to take next in his treatment.

In the meantime, Myers hasn’t stopped fighting. After being diagnosed in October, Myers was forced to take a quick break from the game he loves, but was eventually cleared to play in time for a playoff game. And what happened on his first game back in the playoffs? #17 scored not one, but two touchdowns.

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