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Casey Cares honors teen who battled a rare brain tumor at fundraiser gala this weekend

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Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 17:54:47-04

TJ Onwuanibe, 14, loves football and the sport helped him get through one of the hardest times in his life.

This weekend, the resilient teen is being honored at the annual Casey Cares Gala.

Life before cancer was pretty simple for Onwuanibe. He played with his little brother, went to school and obsessed over football.

But two years ago, everything he loved to do had to be put on hold. It started when his mom noticed he was squinting a lot while reading.

"My mom said ‘Why are you squinting at your homework?’ and I’m like 'That’s the only way I can see it,'" he said.

After several trips to the doctor, Onwuanibe was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that was putting pressure on his optic nerve. He had to go through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation for at least six months.

During that time, his mom reached out to Casey Cares. They set up several fun activities for Onwuanibe and his family, including a meet-and-greet with the Ravens.

"The treatment made me feel worse but all the fun [Casey Cares] gave me made me feel back to normal," he said.

 

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His health struggles only made him stronger and anyone who knows Onwaunibe says his positive attitude is infectious.

"You can see that he doesn’t take anything for granted," said Steve Martel, an eighth grade teacher at McDonogh School where Onwaunibe attends.

"I think the other kids really respect and listen to him because they know he’s been through something that is life changing."

"You would never even know, if you didn’t know TJ before this, all the struggles he’s been through," said Andrew Sellers, Onwaunibe's football coach.

"He doesn’t have to be a verbal leader because the kids can see what he is doing and they can follow in his footsteps."

Last week Onwaunibe received good news from his doctors. He is now in remission.

So what's next for him?

"Waiting for football season!" he said with a huge smile.

 

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