Northeastern's Josey going to homecoming with Miss New Jersey
Marcus Josey didn't even want to go to his homecoming dance.
The two-sport athlete at Northeastern High School had an emotional start to his senior year.
It a senior year that's been occupied by weekly rounds of treatment to fight his B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
For the past six months, constant trips to Hershey Children's Hospital have been a major part of his life. No longer was he out on the football field quarterbacking the Bobcats, and nor will he be on the basketball court this winter.
So what would it matter if he missed his senior homecoming?
"He was just saying that he just wouldn't end up going to homecoming," Marcus' mother, Andrea Josey, said. "At that time, he was feeling very sick. He was in a really bad treatment and just wasn't feeling good in general. And I was like: 'You should still go to homecoming.' And my husband was like: 'It's just a dance,' because he's not into these things anyhow."
But, when he was voted to the homecoming court by his fellow classmates, it was almost expected of him to be there. For someone who's missing out on much of what should be the best year of adolescence, it meant something special to Marcus to be voted to the homecoming court.
"It meant a lot to me because, obviously, I'm going through something that most people don't have to go through," he said. "And I'm losing most of my senior year to treatment, so for them to choose me to represent them on homecoming court, it means a lot."
When he shows up to the homecoming dance on Saturday, all eyes will be on him, primarily because of who he's bringing. Just within the past couple days, it was announced, and approved by the Northeastern School District, that Lindsey Giannini, or better known as Miss New Jersey, will accompany him to the dance.
The background: The plan for Marcus to take Giannini started off as a joke with a couple of classmates, who were brainstorming ideas of women he could take to the dance. When Giannini's name was thrown into the mix, it instantly stuck, and from that point forward, it was her or bust.
So, the family emailed Giannini's representatives a short message telling her about his life before he was diagnosed with leukemia and asked if she would go to homecoming with him. Not expecting a reply, the Josey's got a response a couple days later saying that Giannini would love to fulfill his wish.
Clearing some hurdles: Even with Giannini agreeing to be Marcus' date, there were still some final touches that needed to be approved by the school.
Because Giannini is 21 years old, she needed to be approved by the school board to accompany Marcus to the dance because dates have to be under 21. While she's in town, Giannini will also talk to the Northeastern students about the dangers of distracted driving. The Joseys are also waiting final approval of her being allowed to visit Hershey Children's Hospital with Marcus on Sunday and hand out care packages to patients, but expect it to get approved by the hospital.
Hitting it off: In the recent days, Marcus and Giannini have texted back and forth and are beginning to develop a close relationship. Giannini was a student of Marcus' uncle back in New Jersey. They've also talked about their favorite types of music and television shows.
Much like the Joseys do in the Northeastern community, Giannini is also an active contributor to various charities. She won the Quality of Life Award during the pageant for raising and donating thousands of dollars to children's charities.
The two have also agreed on matching attire for Saturday's dance. Marcus will don a maroon suit with a cream-colored shirt, while Giannini will wear a cream-colored cocktail dress.
An event that began as one that Marcus wanted no part of, has now turned into a night that he's excited to have.
His parents hope it's a night he never forgets.
"I knew that this would be a memory that he would have forever," Andrea said. "Most of us don't think much of our homecoming, like a few years after we kind of forget about it. But, I knew this would be a memory Marcus would have forever. And what a good kid Lindsey is. She's a really nice person and I just knew that this would be something really special for him. When he's going through all of the things that he's going through, anything special that we can do and help to celebrate with him, is a positive thing."
Josey to appear in Eagles documentary: This past Sunday, Marcus' family and the family of 8-year-old Elliot Ross were invited to the Philadelphia Eagles game against the New Orleans Saints.
Marcus and Elliot developed a close bond during their time in the hospital together receiving treatment. They would play video games together and the families communicated regularly.
The two families were given tickets and all-access treatment by the organization, meeting some of the players and the head coach, Chip Kelly. They were also informed that their friendship would be featured in the upcoming documentary series, "Road to Victory." The series tells the stories of young football players and fans. The film crew will follow Marcus and Elliot in the coming months, including capturing Marcus' homecoming with Miss New Jersey.
No release date for the episode has been announced.
Health update: Marcus' health hasn't had many complications lately, but he still continues to undergo regular treatment.
He's going at least weekly or bi-weekly, and will continue to receive treatment for the next 3 1/2 years.
Beginning Monday, he'll undergo the next phase of his treatment, which the doctors have told him can be more rough than previous rounds.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker