Bucyrus Wynford two-way senior lineman Jon Griffin was ready to suit up one last season for the Royals this fall as a key contributor on the football team. Instead, Griffin isn’t going to play a single down in a single game. Now he’s going to battle against acute myeloid leukemia – and he’s not going to do it alone.
It’s July and time to begin preparations for the upcoming football season. The senior members of the Wynford football team donned their jerseys Wednesday for a press conference in the high school library.
Their mood was anything but lighthearted. There was little talk, if any, about the upcoming season, pursuing their fifth consecutive North Central Conference title or even a return to the playoffs.
The somber crew was focused on taking part in another contest, this one featuring a classmate and teammate who was to be a two-way lineman for the Royals. But Jon Griffin isn’t going to play a single down in a single game this season.
That doesn’t mean his teammates don’t have his back. The fully intend to do everything they can to lead the way in his battle against acute myeloid leukemia.
“It was rough. I was looking forward to playing football,” Jon said of being diagnosed after symptoms first appeared with a sore shoulder on prom night. “I’m just going to beat it (leukemia). I’m not going to lie down. I am scared.
“These guys,” Jon said, nodding at his teammates, “have been great.”
The press conference was a kickoff of sorts for the Wynford team’s efforts to provide financial as well as emotional support for Jon and his family, including parents Scott and Darcy and their other three children. Jon was home from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for the first time in a month.
He was scheduled to return the very next day to begin the second round of chemotherapy treatments Thursday night.
When a senior teammate presented Jon and his parents with an envelope, Jon opened it and found a check for $1,000 from the Wynford football program to assist with his medical expenses.
Flanked by his parents who each rubbed his back, Jon bowed his head to fight back the tears. Then he removed his hat bearing the inscription, “100% Possible.” Sporting a shaved head, he went directly to head coach Travis Moyer and the two embraced in the library that was quieter than it had ever been in spite of the presence of his teammates and the assembled media.
“We’ve got a member of our family in need,” Moyer said. “At the end of the day, life is about people.
People right now are what mean the most to Jon and his family. Not a fourth year of football, not another trophy and not press clippings in Saturday’s paper after another win on Friday night.
“You realize how many people there are that care about people,” said Scott Griffin, a Wynford graduate himself and a chiropractor with offices in the Wynford community and Carey. “It’s humbling. You never want to see yourself as dependent. But you have to (depend on other people).
“I’m just convinced there is nothing like living in a small community. Travis (Moyer) has been incredible. When something like this happens, you see the true character of the individual.”
Jon said the support has been one of the real highlights of his ordeal thus far.
“I felt awesome. Knowing people cared. I get visitors all the time,” Jon said. He expects to remain in the hospital about 30 days after each round of extremely strong chemotherapy. “You never know how much people care until something like this happens.”
Jon and his parents say they are fortunate. Jon is young and strong. Doctors diagnosed the disease in its early stages and tests indicate genetic markers that are in his favor.
And although a bone marrow transplant isn’t part of Jon’s treatment plan at the moment, his older brother has been tested and found to be compatible. As Scott Griffin noted, “Things can change in a day.”
“That was another answer to prayer,” Darcy Griffin said, wiping away tears, her hand never leaving her son. “We prayed for a month there would be a match in the family and it would be Jon’s older brother.”
Soreness went from Jon’s shoulder to his back and became more severe. He developed a problem with sties in his eye and had no energy. Doctors tested for mononucleosis and even staff infections, but various prescribed steroids didn’t help.
A pathologist noticed the results of a blood test and suggested the Griffins see a specialist right away. When doctors at Children’s Hospital made the diagnosis of leukemia, Jon was in the hospital and began his first round of chemo the very next day.
While his mother acknowledged there have been long days in the hospital and more are ahead, Jon’s father said, “We are claiming the victory in advance.”
Although Jon won’t likely be able to attend school until after Christmas break, school officials are already working with Children’s Hospital to help him keep up with his school work until he can return to class.
While football this year is out of the question for the big, muscular lineman, he hasn’t changed his plans for after graduation. He wants to attend Tiffin University and major in criminal justice with an eye towards one day of working for the FBI.
“We expect him to graduate this year,” Moyer said.
Teammates and coaches have been to the hospital several times to visit.
“It’s good to know I’m still part of the team,” Jon said.
Jon has already read Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About The Bike,” and noted his job is to stay positive.
“You’ve got to stay incredibly positive and picture yourself on the other side doing the things you love to do, that you know you’re going to do when you’re done,” Jon said. “I’ve never thought the whole time that I’m not going to come through this alive. It’s not something I’m going to do.
“I’m going to be a changed man, but I’m going to be a better person through it all.”
There are several events being held on behalf of Jon and the Griffin family for those interested.
* The Carey community has an ongoing silent auction with bids being accepted on donated items until July 25. Contact the Kurtz Shoe Store in Carey for a list of items and to place a bid.
* The Jonathan Griffin Benefit Breakfast will be held at the Wynford Elementary School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 9. Breakfast will be served for a donation.
* The Wynford football team has named the Griffin family as the beneficiary of its Jamboree Game at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 at Wynford High School against Norwalk. All donations at the gate will be given to the Griffin family. Jon’s goal is to be home from the hospital after his second round of treatments in order to attend the game.
* The Wynford football program is continuing to solicit and accept donations to help with Jon’s medical expenses. Those interested should contact Travis Moyer at 419-562-7828, or send a check to:
Wynford Athletic Boosters (Jon Griffin)
c/o Travis Moyer
Wynford High School
3288 Holmes-Center Rd.
Bucyrus, Ohio 44820