Illini Basketball

Tipoff Kids

IR doesn’t typically post a press release in its entirety. But this one is pretty compelling.

Six patients from Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent (PMCH) have been selected as the Honorary Tipoff Kids for the 2022 Big Ten Conference Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournaments.

Ashlyn Eldridge, Austin Fuquay, Parker Gossett, Elsa Ham, CJ Harris and Violet Rich were chosen by the children’s hospital’s care team to serve as the honorary tipoff kids for the tournaments. This year’s Honorary Tipoff Kids received a Big Ten gift bag and will be featured on the video board during the semifinal and championship games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Eleven-year-old Ashlyn Eldridge was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent. After she completes four rounds of chemotherapy, Ashlyn will have additional scans to determine if the treatment has worked. Ashlyn enjoys Anime, coloring, drawing, dining out, watching movies, tennis, and making slime.

Austin Fuquay is 12 years old and was born missing part of his DNA. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) doctors and nurses stated they were surprised he was even alive. His first year of life was wrought with challenges, from seizures to new surgeries, new diagnoses and numerous medications. Starting his second year and continuing until he was around 4 years old, Austin was challenged with a rotation of pneumonia, life-threatening GI infections and challenges that left doctors scratching their heads. Austin and his family continued to push through all of Austin’s therapies, knowing that the only way he would live was to get stronger, be able to sit upright and eventually be able to walk. At age 5, Austin was strong enough that he was no longer battling pneumonia and other secondary diseases whenever he got a common cold. It was a long journey with huge medical and physical setbacks. Austin loves people and being part of anything exciting. He has an infectious laugh and everyone he meets falls in love with him. In the summer of 2020, at the age of 11, Austin overcame the challenges and started walking with the least supportive walker and pushing it all on his own. Austin continues to receive new diagnoses, but the teams at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent are dedicated to providing him with the best medical care possible for a child with complex health challenges.

Twelve-year-old Parker Gossett was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome shortly after birth. Born without her right foot, Parker received her first prosthetic at 10 months old and was walking by 14 months. When Parker was two-and-a-half years old, she started to have unknown fevers, and doctors discovered a mass on her stomach. Care teams at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent, led by Pediatric Surgeon Evan Kokoska, MD, removed her right kidney along with a two-pound tumor which turned out to be cancerous. Parker then began radiation and chemotherapy led by Bassem Razzouk, MD, and the Pediatric Oncology team at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. During the cancer treatments, it was discovered that Parker was having issues with bone growth that were causing pain with her prosthetic. Parker was then referred to Jonathan Wilhite, MD, a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, where she has successfully undergone multiple bone revision surgeries. On October 22, 2013, Parker celebrated being cancer free.

Elsa Ham developed acute onset of left-sided weakness, vomiting, lethargy and fever on February 15, 2019. A head CT showed acute hemorrhage in her right thalamus. She was intubated due to declining mental status and was airlifted to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital for emergency surgery performed by Dr. Jodi Smith. Pathology showed she had a low-grade glioma consistent with pilocytic astrocytoma. She was in the hospital for almost two months as she required inpatient therapies to try to regain some of the neurologic function she lost. Repeat imaging after she came home from the hospital showed the tumor increased in size, so Elsa began outpatient chemotherapy approximately once a week for 14 months. Elsa had her last chemotherapy treatment in oncology clinic on November 13, 2020, and she rang the bell signaling the end of treatment. She continues in outpatient occupational and physical therapies at Ascension St. Vincent Fishers and has made great progress. Elsa was selected for her strength and bravery, perseverance in the most challenging of times, and ability to bring a smile to the face of everyone that she meets.

CJ Harris woke up one night in November 2016 and knew something was wrong. When his mother brought him to the Emergency Room, doctors found that he had pneumonia, one of his lungs had collapsed, and he also had a high fever. CJ was quickly moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital. CJ remembers the doctors and nurses bringing him LEGO bricks and puzzles to make him feel more comfortable. His favorite memory of his experience was when his ER nurse came to visit him in the PICU, which made him feel more at home during his stay. Because of the toys that CJ received during his stay, he decided to fundraise and has purchased various toys for the patients at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital. CJ was selected for his philanthropic spirit and continued dedication to giving back and making a difference for other kids. CJ is still under the care of a pulmonologist, makes monthly visits to his pediatrician and sees an immunologist. CJ is doing much better with controlling his asthma attacks and has not had another as severe as the one when he was hospitalized in 2016. CJ plays football, participates in track and is currently playing on an elite travel football team. He enjoys spending time with his family, friends and his first pet, Rico, a hypoallergenic toy poodle. CJ is also in the band and plays the saxophone. He is looking forward to starting high school at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School this fall.

Eleven-year-old Violet Rich enjoys art, music, reading, playing with her friends, is a very talented storyteller and especially enjoys writing scary stories. In April of 2019, Violet was diagnosed with t-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was immediately admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent. During her hospitalization, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning stopped by her room for a visit. It is one of her fondest memories during that time. Over the next few months, Violet continued her treatment at home. In August, 2019, she was hospitalized again. One month later, an MRI revealed a mass had grown on her brain and she underwent several surgeries. After 54 days in the hospital, Violet went home and continued to improve while continuing her chemotherapy treatment for two years. The team at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital selected Violet for this opportunity because of her positive attitude and fun-loving spirit.

For more information on the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, visit Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent (PMCH) is a full service, dedicated children’s medical center, providing the highest quality, family-centered care to children and adolescents in the state of Indiana and beyond. PMCH has more than 160 licensed beds, which includes a 23-bed pediatric intensive care unit, 17-bed Pediatric Emergency Department and a 97-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – the largest Level IV NICU in Indiana, providing the highest level of acute care, as established by the American Academy of Pediatrics. PMCH treats patients from all over the state, providing safe and streamlined critical care transport by ambulance and air. The hospital offers 24-hour on-site coverage by pediatric hospitalists, intensivists, neonatologists, and board-certified emergency physicians. PMCH is staffed by more than 100 experienced pediatric sub-specialists along with pediatric nurses, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, and other health professionals with a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to family-focused care. PMCH is part of Ascension, one of the nation’s leading non-profit and Catholic health systems. Visit