Mitch and mascot.When Mitch was just 11, his family received devastating news. He had brain cancer. But they quickly found that they wouldn’t be facing this battle alone. 

The University of Cincinnati’s football team heard about Mitch and his diagnosis and adopted his family. The team sent Mitch positive notes, invited him to all practices and games, and even gave him a cell phone so they could communicate with him while he was in the hospital during his treatment. 

Today, Mitch is 17 and cancer free. His family and the Bearcats are as tight as ever. 

“When they adopted us, it wasn’t just for when Mitch was in treatment,” says Dee, Mitch’s mom. “It’s for life. They still invite us to practices. We go to all the games. Everyone in the family, Mitch, his twin, Nick, our girls – we all enjoy it.” 

So, the family and team decided to do something more. They created a foundation called Mitch’s Mission and hold fundraisers that support the summer camp for children with cancer, provided by Cincinnati Children’s.   

Camp NJoyItAll gives kids with cancer and kids who have survived cancer a safe camp experience. The camp includes all the traditional summer camp activities, like canoeing, swimming, camp fires, hiking and more – all with doctors and nurses on staff. 

“Every year, we have some of the football players and the UC Student Government come to camp,” Dee says. “It lets them see firsthand what it’s like for Mitch and other kids with cancer, and gives them an opportunity to hang out with the campers and just let them be kids.” 

This year, the foundation is holding its sixth annual family carnival fundraiser, called Playdate with the Bearcats. The event is part of the Giving Hope community fundraiser program at Cincinnati Children’s and has raised $70,000 to date. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Dee says. “There’s something for everyone. The players are there, and it’s not just the football team that supports us. It’s everyone, from the cheerleaders to soccer team, to baseball and lacrosse teams. There’s up to 100 athletes at the event.” 

The event includes pickup basketball games, cornhole, face painting, raffles, autographs from athletes, fun with mascots and a lot more. There’s something for every age and ability. 

Dee says the Giving Hope Program is helping to grow the carnival’s success. They will be using the Giving Hope logo, banners, change canisters and more to help with their fundraising efforts. 

“It’s really great to be able to connect Playdate with the Bearcats to something bigger at the hospital,” she says.