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Graduate who was ‘adopted’ by football team during cancer fight dies at 23

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    CINCINNATI (WLWT) — The University of Cincinnati football team is mourning the sudden loss of Mitch Stone, who was adopted into the team after being diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 11 years old.

He died Jan. 20 at 23 years old.

The 2009 UC football team adopted him as one of its own and he served as inspiration both on and off the field.

“We are heartbroken to lose our dear son, but grateful that in his short time spent here on earth he impacted so many,” Dee Stone, Mitch’s mother, said in a Facebook post. “Mitch had a long road with his cancer diagnosis at the age of 11, but he came out the other side healthy and fit. He was a truly good and caring person–everybody liked him. He always took the time to listen and appreciated a well-told story and a good laugh. He loved UC football, collecting weird things, thrift shopping, running, hiking & camping, spending time with his family and many, many friends. He will be in our hearts forever. We are grateful for your prayers and support.”

WLWT caught up with Stone in 2016 when he was in remission and attending UC as a freshman.

He recalled his grim diagnosis and the chemotherapy treatments that left his body frail and sick.

But a foundation with Children’s Hospital matched him with the football team in July 2009 and that changed everything.

“They let me go to the locker room, go to team meetings and stuff, it was almost like I was a part of the team,” Stone said.

“We had something to look forward to every week. I mean there we were stuck in the hospital it was like, ‘OK, who are they playing this week?’ Read the newspapers, it was just something to focus on other than his illness,” Dee Stone, Mitch’s mom, said.

Eventually doctors found a treatment that worked and Mitch recovered.

As a freshman, he led the student section at Nippert Stadium in cheers for the first home game.

“This is almost exactly how I pictured it, this is definitely the place for me. I’ve really enjoyed my first few weeks here,” Stone said.

And he credited the team with helping him win his cancer battle.

“Oh I truly believe that was part of it, I truly believe that’s why in 2009 they went 12 and 0,” Dee Stone said.

“It’s been amazing, it’s been quite a journey from there to now. I’m just fortunate,” Mitch said.

Those football players who became like family are now mourning his loss.

Former UC quarterback Tony Pike tweeted in part, “This one is too tough. Mitch stone meant so much to me and the ’09 team, changing lives forever! Fighting, and beating cancer, with a smile the whole time! A bearcat forever.”

In a release, UC said Stone graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and was part of the Kolodzik business scholars.

He started his own foundation, called Mitch’s Mission, to help other kids with health challenges like him.

Memorial arrangements are pending.

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