When Daily Record/Sunday News sportswriter Steve Navaroli reported he had throat cancer in an Oct. 7 article, he said, "All too often, people have to wait until their final days to find out how people really feel about them. This disease has allowed me to find out that people care about me, and I am truly humbled."
Navaroli has been overwhelmed by the support of family, friends, co-workers, coaches, athletes and perfect strangers.
Since he reported he had cancer and was taking time to battle the disease, a nation was formed to support him.
On Monday night, in the cafeteria of York Suburban High School, Navaroli got to embrace York Suburban student-athletes Emily Schmittle and Will Massey, who created "Navaroli Nation.
The students came up with the idea to create and sell T-shirts, with the proceeds going to the Navaroli family.
"Since Steve had such a body of support, we needed a word to describe that, so we came up with Navaroli Nation," said Massey, who came up with the slogan. "It's a passion of his to be a reporter. He's been very good to swimmers across York County and to York Suburban specifically, so we just really thought it was the least we could do."
Monday night in front of a crowd that included family, friends, co-workers, coaches, administrators and parents, Schmittle and Massey presented the Navaroli family with a $1,000 check.
"How do you say thank you?" Navaroli said upon receiving the check. "It's almost impossible. When you look at the next generation of kids, I'd say we're in pretty good shape if this is our next generation."
Schmittle and Massey are both junior swimmers. Each has been a two-time all-star, and both are honor roll students. Schmittle came up with the idea for Navaroli Nation.
"Those numbers are staggering," Navaroli said. "I see a lot of names I recognize, but then I see Mid-Penn swimmers and swimmers in Division I college programs that are willing to throw their name out there to show support."
But, this story has grown beyond swimming, a sport Navaroli has covered since 1991. The yellow shirts can be seen across York County schools and even in the Michigan area in which Navaroli grew up.
"It almost went a mini version of viral," said Will's mother, Sally, who played an integral part along with Emily's mother, Lisa, in the success of Navaroli Nation. "We were overwhelmed very quickly and not able to keep up, which is a great problem to have."
The first order of 72 shirts went quickly. The number of shirts sold is now approaching 500, as teams such as Dallastown swimming and West York football got behind the effort.
"It's a testament to the Nation," Sally Massey said. "We didn't want to concentrate on just swimming. It's a tribute to Steve and what he's done for the community."
Lisa Schmittle has seen three daughters swim at Suburban, and Navaroli has been there for each one of them.
"Steve treats all of these athletes with respect, and he's so professional, but he balances it with a lot of care," Lisa said. "I see him interviewing each child as if it were his own."
Navaroli, who has lost 65 pounds through the seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, has just begun swallowing liquid foods. Once he's fully healthy and able to take a larger role with the Nation, it might expand beyond T-shirts.
"Maybe turning it into a scholarship for high school students who want to become journalists or maybe a scholarship for an athlete," Lisa Schmittle said.
Navaroli's response, "How could I not (want to continue it)? You can't help but reflect going through this. You look at what everybody has done for me and how could I not want to give back?"
Want a shirt?If you're interested in buying a "Navaroli Nation" shirt, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More coverage and informationStory and videos: York Suburban high swimmers create campaign to help journalist with cancer