EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Bulldogs are sometimes viewed as a ferocious breed of dogs due to their appearance. But in reality, they are truly courageous and gentle.
The East Palestine Bulldogs football team has a young fan who is both ferocious and courageous.
Eleven-year-old East Palestine fifth grader Charlie Hanley has displayed such traits.
Charlie, the son of Jo and Craig Compton, had cancer on his left knee that required a full knee replacement surgery in April. That surgery midway through his fourth-grade year in school has required him to attempt to catch up with his classmates. He is still working on that, but is now working on fifth-grade material as well.
Friday night during East Palestine’s win against Toronto, Charlie was named an honorary captain of the Bulldogs football team. He walked out on the field with the help of a crutch, accompanying the other football team captains for the game’s coin flip.
“He loves it,” Jo said about all the ceremonies. “The football players have come to the house and they have been very supportive. We can’t thank them enough.”
Not only did he get to be part of the coin flip, he was given the opportunity to flip the coin to determine who gets the ball first in the game. That was something that Charlie admitted he was a little nervous about.
“I didn’t want it to land on the wrong side,” he said.
The Bulldogs may want to have Charlie back again, as the coin landed on the head after the Toronto captain called tails. That allowed the Bulldogs to receive the ball first in the game, scoring just a minute into the contest.
Charlie was allowed to keep the coin as a memento of the occasion. The officials also gave him an honorary referee penalty flag.
“It’s great, it means so much to us,” Jo said. “We can’t thank them enough with the school, too, from the very beginning.”
Following the coin flip, Charlie participated in the student tunnel for the players to run through as they entered the field. After the players touched the “lucky” Bulldog statue, each player and coach gave him a fist bump.
He also had the unique opportunity to watch the game from the press box, enjoying the Bulldogs’ 64-20 shellacking of the Toronto Red Knights.
“It makes me really happy and I enjoy it all,” Charlie said. “I really appreciate it.”
Charlie and his family are big football fans. In addition to rooting for his hometown Bulldogs, he and his dad are big Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
“We watch the Steelers games anytime they are on,” Charlie said.
“We tend to root for the Steelers,” Jo confirmed. “His dad and his family are really big Steelers fans, so they really get into it.”
Charlie is now cancer-free and hopes to help others going through difficult situations at Akron’s Children’s Hospital, which is where he had his surgery.
“I’m thinking about working there and helping other cancer patients,” Charlie says.
T-shirts are being sold at East Palestine games to help support Charlie and his family with the financial cost of his surgery and treatment. Anyone wishing to help in the fundraising effort can contact the school for more information.