KICKING IT WITH CAM: 2nd grader gets trip to meet QB [with gallery]

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series recognizing cancer survivors as the county prepares for the annual Relay for Life event on Friday.

Seven-year-old Carmello Hill recently had a dream come true.

The AES second-grader and his family flew to Charlotte, N.C., where Mello not only met Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, but got to run drills and throw passes with him.

“He loves all sports except soccer,” Skylar Hill said of her son. “He was in heaven.”

The trip was courtesy of Make A Wish Alabama. The young sports fan now appears to be the picture of health, but he and his mom have had quite the journey since his diagnosis with embroynal rhabdomysosarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the connective tissue. He has been in remission since July.

“We went back (to Birmingham) Friday,” Hill said. “He is still in remission. His doctor stopped his radiation, and we go back for an MRI this summer. That will mean a year in remission.”

In December, he resumed playing basketball in local youth league and made the All-Star team. Now, he’s playing baseball with the Timber Rattlers.

As Covington County prepares to celebrate cancer survivors at its annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life event this Friday, Hill was asked for advice for others facing what she and Mello appear to have conquered.

She was ready, as it turns out, because she recently did just that. One of the six children participating in their Make A Wish trip to Carolina has the exact same cancer that Carmello had.

“I was able to tell her about it,” Hill said.

“On the 17th, they had to have scans to find out if five of his ribs would be removed,” she said. “He is doing treatment – chemo and radiation, just like Carmello. We talked about having to give them shots. Everything she is facing, I’ve already gone through. I was able to tell her what to expect. It’s bad.

“As a mother, everything my son went through, I felt it. I was there,” Hill said. “There was a huge lesson for me, and I did it.

“Carmello is my blessed child. I prayed for this child. I failed as a mom before, but I am the one who raised Carmello, and I did an excellent job with him. He is mannerly, respectful. He’s on the A and B honor roll. He is smart and talented.”

Hill said she could already see the other mom doing things she had done.

“The chemo messes up their taste buds,” she said. “You are extra protective, and try to get him to eat something.

“That child only likes hot fries right now. When Carmello was in the same place, he begged for Church’s fried chicken legs, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a biscuit.

“He still loves it so much, he wants me to get a job there,” she laughed.

“You have to pray. Talk to God,” she said. “I am a Christian. I’m not a perfect Christian, but I know right from wrong and I’ve come a long way,” she said. “I had to learn to lean on God instead of family. It was just hard.”

There are still hard days ahead for Hill, but Carmello is doing great, and Make A Wish provided the family with a wonderful trip, she said. Carmello’s father, Charlo Gantt, and sister, Takia Stoudemire, also made the trip.

Once the family landed in Charlotte, transportation was provided to the Ritz Carlton. The next afternoon, they had an outing where they met the other youngsters participating in the weekend’s Make A Wish event. The families were from Chicago, Arizona, Oklahoma and Charlotte. The Arizona family had Alabama ties, and their son, who received a liver transplant, was treated at Children’s in Birmingham. The two moms are already planning to visit when their sons visit Children’s this summer.

On Saturday, the group traveled by bus to the Panthers’ stadium. In the locker room, each Make A Wish recipient had been issued a locker with his or her name on it. Inside hung a jersey with Cam’s number the child’s name. Gift bags for each family member also had been placed in the locker.

Newton was down to earth, Hill said.

“He was very nice.”

The children ran drills with him, and Mello actually caught a pass from the former Auburn quarterback.

The group also attended a Charlotte Knights baseball game with Newton, and a professional photographer documented their trip.


About Make A Wish: Make-A-Wish® has been granting wishes in the state of Alabama since 1987—which makes this year the 30th anniversary of the first wish granted in the state of Alabama. Since September 2012, the group has granted more than 500 children with critical illnesses in the state. Currently, there are more than 280 on a wish list in Alabama. For more information, visit The Alabama organization worked with Make A Wish of Central Western North Carolina to put together Carmello’s trip.