Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

January 14, 2013

Middlebury resident Sam Grewe enjoys being an adopted Irishman

MIAMI — With the stadium sound system blaring loudly and pom-pom-waving fans cheering wildly, Sam Grewe of Middlebury took his deliberate strides among the elite of college football last Monday night.

The 14-year-old Northridge Middle School eighth-grader offered high-fives to his Notre Dame football brothers on the turf of Sun Life Stadium as they went through their warm-up drill prior to the BCS National Championship game against Alabama.

“That’s actually been his routine at all the games,” said Sam’s mother, Michelle.

A week ago was no different, except for a national title was on the line for the undefeated Irish. Despite the eventual humbling loss to the defending champion Crimson Tide, the Grewes capped an incredible season-long experience and millions who happened to catch ESPN’s pre-game coverage got to learn about Sam’s inspiring story.

Osteosarcoma diagnosis

Sam has been an athlete all his life. Before basketball season as a seventh-grader, Sam grew 6 1/2 inches, according to his mom. When he complained about pain in his right knee Michelle suggested it was because he was growing.

She would eventually take him to the doctor for an X-ray.

“It was right there on the X-ray,” Michelle said. “Right above his knee you could see the cancer.”

That was Sept. 22, 2011. After some more testing, Sam was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common form of bone cancer. The infected bone was just above his right knee.

Sam immediately began a 21-round regimen of chemotherapy and faced a complex surgery called rotationplasty, where a significant portion of his leg and his knee would be removed.

The top of his ankle would then be rotated and reattached to the bottom of his thigh. Essentially, his foot was reattached backward and his ankle would become his knee.

Before the surgery, though, Notre Dame football officials had learned of Sam’s challenge. Head Coach Brian Kelly showed his team video highlights of Sam’s seventh-grade football season at Northridge. He looked like a star as he ran over defenders and caught passes for big gains.

In April 2012, just two days before Sam’s surgery was scheduled, the team conducted an official adoption ceremony at its training facility on campus. Players and coaches wore “Grewe Crew” T-shirts, and from that moment on Sam was officially considered a member of the 2012 Fighting Irish football team.

“(Notre Dame officials) realized that Sam’s surgery was quickly approaching and moved up the ceremony,” Michelle explained. “So, that weekend before the surgery, all we were talking about as a family was this adoption ceremony. That was a Monday and it went above an beyond our expectations. We drove down to Indianapolis the next to get ready for the surgery on Wednesday and we were all still going on that adrenaline from the adoption ceremony.”

Sam wore his Notre Dame hat to the hospital and took his “Believe Like a Champion,” sign the team had made for him, Michelle said.

The surgery was a success and Sam now wears a prosthetic limb that fits over his foot, which now serves as part of his shin. He has become quite mobile and functional with his prosthetic.

Something to look foward to

The rounds of chemotherapy continued as the 2012 football season kicked off in September. Randy and Michelle would drop Sam off with the team about two-hours before kickoff each home game. No matter how Sam was feeling, he never missed a home game, even if he was on an IV.

“Throughout the season Sam always had something to look forward to,” said his father, Randy. “He had access to the players and the locker room during those home games. We could go over there whenever we wanted for training table, which is their evening meal.

“It was an incentive when Sam was going through five, six, even 10 days of chemo to be able to, when he got out of the hospital, go over and eat dinner with the team. It was something to look forward to.”

On game days, Sam would walk on the field during pre-game drills and players would give them high-fives, just as he did last week. Before Notre Dame’s final home game — senior day — against Wake Forest back in November, Sam walked out on the field with Coach Kelly.

After the game, a decisive Irish win, Kelly and Notre Dame captain Manti Te’o stood with Sam in front of the team in the Irish locker room. Kelly then turned to Sam and asked him to lead the team in the school’s alma mater. Sam counted down, one-two-three, and the entire team erupted into fast-paced song.

“He never told us about that,” Michelle said. “It sort of just came up in conversation one day. I was like, ‘What!?’ Sam said, ‘Well, you never asked.’”

After Notre Dame had locked up a spot in last week’s title game, the Irish hosted their annual football awards banquet. The Grewes attended. On their way home they stopped at a convenience store near campus and bumped into Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, Michelle said.

Swarbrick said the team wanted to invite the Grewes along to be part of their BCS National Championship experience in South Florida. The Grewes were thrilled and accepted.

“We cannot say enough good things about Jack Swarbrick,” Randy said. “He really went above and beyond in taking our family into the Notre Dame family.”

The Grewes ended up flying down on a team charter flight and staying in the team hotel in Miami Beach. Sam would run into the players and they would call him by name and chat with him.

One day at the hotel pool, Sam and his family were thinking about going swimming. Michelle said Sam was a bit nervous. He had never taken his prosthetic off in public. After all, he basically has half a leg with his foot sewn on backward.

In the pool wereNotre Dame players Carlo Calabrese, Robby Toma, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Te’o, who several weeks earlier finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. All of them, Randy remembers, were encouraging Sam to get into the pool.

“When you have those guys sitting there saying, ‘Sam, Sam, come in Sam,’ it holds a lot more weight than Mom saying, ‘Go ahead, get in,’” Michelle said. “Once he did it the first time, it was much easier the second time.”

A touching feature

During the season, officials at ESPN caught wind of Sam’s story. ESPN Journalist Tom Rhinaldi and his crew visited the Grewe’s home in Middlebury. The result was a four-minute feature on Sam and his family that aired during the pre-game show. Millions saw the telecast.

“We didn’t get to see it when it first aired because we were at the stadium,” Randy said. “But when it did, our Facebook notifications and messages on our phone exploded. It wasn’t until about 2:30 in the morning when my daughter and I got back into the hotel room and began ready the messages. It was very touching.”

Rinaldi, an award-winning journalist who worked for WNDU-TV in the mid-1990s, visited the Grewes’ home in Middlebury while filming the piece and got to know the Grewes a bit.

On BCS game day, he invited the Grewes to the College Game Day set on the sidelines and into the network’s “war room” as they prepared for that night’s telecast.

“He was great to us,” Randy said of Rinaldi. “He made sure we met certain people. It’s a big day for ESPN, it’s their Super Bowl. Yet they still found time to stay with us and show us around a bit.

“You just had to pinch yourself to realize, we really were there.”

During Rinaldi’s touching feature, Notre Dame offensive lineman Mike Golic Jr. alluded to the fact that it was Sam who touched and inspired this team. Whatever they may have given Sam, his attitude and perseverance more than returned the favor.

“When he’s with us, he’s just one of the guys; he’s hanging out, coming up to the training table,” Golic explained during the ESPN story. “It’s tremendous perspective. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model.”

A great experience

Sam met up with team around 6 p.m. as they got off the bus and went to the locker room with them. He joined them on the field during warmups, offering high-fives as the players ran past him during drills, something he’s done all season.

The Grewes had seats behind the Notre Dame bench, but Randy and Sam watched most of Monday night’s game from Swarbrick’s luxury box in Sun Life Stadium.

As the clock ticked down on Alabama’s 42-14 victory, Sam accompanied Swarbrick onto the field and then into the Notre Dame locker room.

“He said it was quiet and that the guys were really trying to hold it together, but Sam never tells us too much,” Michelle said. “I think even though they lost it was a great experience”.

After it all, Sam remains mostly quiet about the experience. He is visibly uncomfortable with the outside attention and mostly offers one-word answers to questions from reporters.

When the Grewes returned home last week, Michelle and Sam took a taxi to Memorial Hospital in South Bend to take a blood draw, while Randy and Sam’s sister, Audrey, tended to the luggage.

Today Sam will start round 20 of 21 of his chemotherapy. Michelle said the final round is expected to be conducted in February and they’re hoping for a clean bill of health by March.

In the end, the Grewes believe Notre Dame gave them an incredible gift and helped them through the most challenging and frightening time of their lives.

People sometimes say they’d give an arm and a leg to be part of something like Notre Dame football, Michelle pointed out with a laugh. Sam lost a leg, and both Michelle and Randy adamantly admit they would have traded this whole experience for Sam’s health.

Still, they hope the Notre Dame family got as much out of Sam’s presence as he did theirs.

“I think the whole experience was a win-win situation,” Michelle said. “I’d like to believe there are a handful of players who got as much out of this as Sam did.”

Randy is confident that some of the players who showed an extended interest in Sam this season understand the bigger picture of life.

“They didn’t have to do it,” Randy said, “but they see that there’s something else out there beyond football.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • GN140722 fair food drive 03 Fair's food drive falls short of world record, but is still a success

    For a 24-hour period, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair “All IN” food drive committee attempted a “Guinness Book of World Records” for the largest single-day food drive. Their goal: 560,000 pounds of food collected from 1 p.m. Sunday to 1 p.m. Monday.

    July 21, 2014 5 Photos

  • GN140722 fair special needs awareness 02 Many enjoy Disabilities Awareness Day at the fair

    Barry Malone stepped off the Orient Express roller coaster ride, grinning. “That I was fun. I liked that,” Malone said with a laugh. “That was a good ride, too.” Malone attended the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Monday and participated in the Disabilities Awareness Day activities and events at Heritage Park, just inside the main gate.

    July 21, 2014 4 Photos

  • GN131016 county commissioners ELKHART COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Volume cranked up on noise violators

    Elkhart County Commissioners Monday approved the adoption of an ordinance amending the current Elkhart County Noise Ordinance to include stricter penalties for repeat violators.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140721 Kosciusko Fatal Photo #2.jpg Fiery crash kills one, critically injures two in North Webster

    A fiery crash in North Webster left a Pennsylvania man dead and two others critically injured at 3:21 p.m. Sunday on Ind. 13, near Esterbrook Drive.

    July 21, 2014 4 Photos

  • GN140721 fair ride 01.jpg SLIDESHOW: Francesca Battistelli at the fair Christian artist Francesca Battistelli performed at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Sunday night.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140721 fair parade 43 THE PASSING PARADE GOSHEN — The Elkhart County 4-H Fair Parade wound its way from downtown Goshen to the fairgrounds Sunday afternoon, bringing smiles to the faces of adults and children alike with horns, sirens, candy and fun floats. Gail Janssen, of Goshen, said that

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • SLIDESHOW: Elkhart County 4-H Fair Parade

    July 20, 2014

  • 0720 fair faces Giddens Katheryn Giddens joined 4-H on a whim GOSHEN — She’d have a hard time convincing her 4-H fair family now, but when Katheryn Giddens started her first year in the program, she was shy. “I hardly ever talked. I just showed up and did my thing and didn’t talk much at all,” she said. Gidden

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 22 states have jobless rate drop

    WASHINGTON22 states have jobless rate dropUnemployment rates dropped in 22 U.S. states last month and stayed the same in 14, as the nation at large posted a fifth straight month of solid hiring.The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates

    July 20, 2014

  • GN140720 Maple scholars_VanDerZwaag EXPLORING SUMMER GOSHEN — Fourteen Goshen College students are participating in the Maple Scholars Summer Research Program.Started in 1998, Maple Scholars is an eight-week program of research, experimentation, analysis and archiving data. It provides an opportunity f

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Last weekend (July 12) the Goshen Parks Department held its Kid’s Try-athlon to promote childhood fitness and this week (July 18) the new bicycle trail is open to the fairgrounds in Goshen, offering residents a healthy way to get to the annual agriculture exposition. Have you joined the local fitness movement?

Yes, I work at eating healthy and exercising
No, I am happy with my fitness level
Changing my diet and exercise frequency is a work in progress
     View Results
AP Video
UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism Native American Teens Get Taste of College Legendary Actor James Garner Dies Ukraine Rebels: Black Boxes Will Be Returned Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up