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A Miracle for Joey Price – Residents of Hope, Arkansas Rally Round One of Their Own

Joey Price up at bat
Photo courtesy Kelley Russell

Boys will be boys. From the time we can walk, most of us loved to tumble and play, and a little fall off a sofa is never a big deal. But when 3-year-old Joey Price took that spill off his father’s couch in March, he didn’t bounce back so quickly.

“Everything seemed to be okay,” Mark Price, Joey’s father, said. “When we took him to get X-rays the pediatrician said everything looked good.” Later, blood work showed inflammation in Joey’s hip, but it was pain in his knees that Joey complained about.

After repeated visits to the pediatrician, Joey’s parents took him to Dr. Mitchell who specializes in orthopedics. “At first Joey said one knee hurt,” Mark said, “But when the doctor asked Joey which hurt, he said it was the other one.”

During this time, however, Joey remained determined to play tee ball with other children his age. “He’s a sweet little boy who loves to get out there with the other kids,” Jack Williams, a longtime coach and president of the Baseball Association of Hope, said. “He’s a typical little boy with big bright eyes and a curious smile and he couldn’t wait to play.”

Despite his resolve, soon Joey got to the point where he could not even walk, Mark Price said. “So we knew there was something wrong with our little boy.”

Joey Price with his father Mark
Photo courtesy Kelley Russell

On April 19, Joey’s grandmother and great-grandmother told Mark they would take him to the doctor again. Mark was at work that day when he received the call to meet them at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “I was surprised because I didn’t even know they were taking him there,” Mark said.

“But the biggest shock came when the ER doctor told me that he thought my little boy had leukemia,” Mark said. In fact, the doctor said that he was 99 percent sure of it.

Only the day before, Mark had stopped by Tailgater’s for lunch when he saw a poster for another little boy in town named Alex Beaver who also has leukemia. “I prayed to God to help his family because I could only imagine what they were going through,” Mark said.

“At 51 I’d been blessed with my first child,” Mark said, “and now at 55, the news hit me hard.”

“Parents and kids love Mark,” Trey Branch, Joey’s tee ball coach, said. “When he came in one day and said that he would have to quit, I was worried we had upset him at some point, but we hadn’t. He said that they found out Joey had leukemia… so he had to quit. That’s a tear jerker for anybody at that age.”

Soon after Branch heard the news, he told Williams at a board meeting that they needed to do something for Joey and Mark. That’s when Williams spearheaded the cause and they decided to hold a benefit tournament to raise money for the Price family.

“I went through cancer myself and so did my wife and it takes a lot of money to go through that,” Williams said. “I thought that it was something the league and community should get involved in.”

Joey Price ready to catch
Photo courtesy Kelley Russell

During the first month, Mark took Joey for treatments on Wednesdays. One afternoon, they had stopped to get a snow cone on their way home when they saw Trey Branch’s truck and rolled down the window to say hi.

“Trey said they were going to do a benefit for Joey, and I started to cry,” Mark said.

In preparation for the tournament, a “love fund” was opened at Summit Bank in Hope to collect donations for Joey’s family, according to Brenda Goodwin, the vice-president branch administrator for both bank branches in Hope.

The tournament was scheduled for Saturday, June 9. As the event approached, Mark wanted to take Joey to it, but he wasn’t sure if his son would be up for it. “The doctor said we’d have to address it when the time came,” Mark said.

In the interim, Joey started responding to treatment and Mark grew hopeful that his son would be able to attend. On the day of the event, the doctor said Joey could attend.

At the tournament, the community offered an outpouring of support. Nine tee ball teams showed up, nine men’s softball teams, 18 boys’ baseball teams and more than 12 girls’ softball teams. Tickets to the event were sold at $2 per adult and $1 per child. “But about half paid $5 a head and a couple guys gave $10,” Branch said. Several teams paid double the entry fee because they’d collected money for Joey and wanted to give more.

Joey came to the tournament with his team, the Jets, sponsored by Hempstead County Abstract. “They played the 9 a.m. game,” Branch said, “and he got a hit his first time at bat and went down to first. But they let him hit once which was very gratifying.”

Joey Price watches his team
Photo courtesy Kelley Russell

By the end of the day, the tournament had raised $6,738 for Joey and it all went to his love fund. The event organizers were thrilled with the results.

“I’ve lived mostly in the South and people in small communities seem to get behind something if you’re willing to work at it. There is nothing like the heart of the volunteer,” Williams said. “They are just nice in Hope and they’re good people all around.”

The money from the love fund was presented to Mark on Friday, June 15, and he was moved by how much support people showed to his family. But the best news came two Thursdays ago when Joey’s oncologist said she was impressed with his response to the treatment and his blood health had vastly improved.

“It’s a present from God that he extends Joey’s life,” Mark said. “I thank God for giving us our community, the facilities and the medical personnel for our little boy.”

As long as Joey takes chemotherapy and bone marrow treatments, the Joey Price Love Fund will remain open at Summit Bank. The team is currently trying to raise money to purchase an iPad for Joey. Donations may be made at any of the bank’s 22 branches, but if readers wish to mail a donation they may be sent to Joey Price’s Love Fund, c/o Summit Bank, P.O. Box 788, Hope, AR 71802.

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