Meet Charlie - Notre Dame's smallest Leprechaun
You may have noticed a new leprechaun at Notre Dame this season. He's a bit smaller than the others, but his huge smile lights up a room.
Charlie Meyers, 5, is a rambunctious kindergartner.
"I don't know that there's any way to describe Charlie's personality, other than seeing it. He's got this voice that one day will be gone and that will be etched in our minds forever," Tom Meyers, Charlie's dad, said.
Charlie loves rough housing with his brother Jon.
And he loves the Irish.
Charlie is also battling cancer.
When Charlie was 3-years-old, he was diagnosed with leukemia, the same form of cancer his dad Tom had been diagnosed with when he was 12 years old.
"It's like lightning striking you four times in a row. It's acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. That said it is still extremely rare and then to have a parent and child have it, as I understand it, is medically unprecedented," Tom said.
The unfathomable coincidence has actually helped Charlie get through treatment.
"It has been a lot easier for Charlie, knowing it was something that daddy went through. It helps knowing I'm 20 years out. I live a normal and happy life," Tom said.
Something else helping Charlie through his treatment, his teammates at Notre Dame.
Through the Fighting Irish Fight for Life Program, children battling cancer are teamed up with one of the athletic programs.
"We're trying to make an environment where these kids don't have to stress out about their next chemo treatment. They have teammates, they have friends that they can go and talk to. It's easing the burden of that. These kids, they're doing something that is really incredibly challenging for them to do and we're trying to make life just a little easier for them," said Nick Hanahan, a Notre Dame fencer and a FIFFL student liaison.
The Fight for Life program starts in the fall with a signing day party where each kid pens their letter of intent to join the team.
This year, 13 kids are fighting with the Irish.
"I got together with the other leprechauns and said 'What can we do that's fun?' And we thought 'Alright little kids.' 'What can we do that really makes a difference and week after week we can get involved with these kids?' And we thought Fighting Irish Fight For Life. Let's get a little Leprechaun. Let's see if there's a child out there that wants to be a part of this, show some spirit and luckily they paired us up with little Charlie and he's the best," Joe Fennessy, Notre Dame Leprechaun, said.
What does Charlie like about being a Notre Dame Leprechaun?
"Hanging out with Joe," Charlie said.
"We know he is battling leukemia of course and just the other week he was having some chemo treatments and a spinal tap and that's hard to hear about. The little man, you see him at the pep rally going crazy and you don't realize on Tuesday he might be in there. But he's a fighter. You'd never know it, he's battling, and putting on a good fight and we're proud of him," Fennessy said.
How does being a Leprechaun make Charlie feel?
"Happy," Charlie said. "Because it's just fun."
Charlie had lots of fun when he took the stage at this year's USC pep rally.
"If you see the pep rally he is completely incapable of doing jumping jacks which makes him a great jig dancer," Tom said.
"The next thing you know he's talking to Brian Kelly at the pep rally and it shows you the power of the Notre Dame spirit," Fennessy said.
"It was just super cool to see him dancing around and he did such a great job. It's stunning to me, you see people that you see on the sports news who are willing to give of their own time. I think it speaks volumes of the Notre Dame community and how fortunate we are to be a part of it," Tom said.
The Fighting Irish Fight for Life program holds 3 major events, the signing party, a Christmas party and the Softball Strikeout for Cancer game.
And throughout the year, the kids and teams meet up on their own to go to games or have lunch with each other.
This week, the Notre Dame football team brought in their junior team member, Modesto.