No ‘quit’ in family, friends of late UTM alum Pearson

No ‘quit’ in family, friends of late UTM alum Pearson

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 12:02 am
By: Mike Hutchens, Press Sports

No 'quit' in family, friends of late UTM alum Pearson | Lori Pearson

UT Martin product Lori Pearson poses with her Jackson State Community College squad.

Lori Pearson ‘Never Quit’ during her 24-month battle with breast cancer.
Neither has her family and friends since her untimely death.
Pearson, a former softball player and graduate assistant coach at the University of Tennessee at Martin, has been both the focus and inspiration for The ‘Never Quit’ Foundation — created by her husband Johnny in the wake of her passing late last year at the age 39.
The foundation, whose mission is to provide emotional and financial support to families of cancer victims, will be the focus of Saturday’s activities at UTM when the softball and baseball teams play doubleheaders as part of the Skyhawk Club’s annual fan appreciation and cookout day.
University officials have dubbed the festivities as ‘Never Quit Day’ and hope to raise enough money to cover the cost of a trailer already purchased for the foundation to transport T-shirts, hats and wrist bands commemorating Pearson’s attitude and fight against a rare form of the deadly disease that took the mother of three boys.
Johnny Pearson, who also graduated from UTM in 1989 and worked with Lori in the school’s sports information department, said he’s been overwhelmed at the support given the foundation created in memory of his late wife.
He estimated between $40,000 and 50,000 has already been raised through the sale of T-shirts with the ‘Never Quit’ design and message and said the inspiration for the motto came from Lori’s brave attitude during two bouts with cancer.
“When she was receiving e-mails and notes and encouragement during her fight, she just started signing off ‘Never Quit’ instead of her name,” Johnny said. “She was actually misdiagnosed for the first six months and later not given much hope when the cancer returned a second time
“But instead of giving up when things were bleak, she just kept fighting. Doctors were amazed at her attitude and spirit, and ‘never quit’ became her trademark.”
Johnny said his goal for the foundation is “to be broke at the end of every year” after distributing proceeds from the sale of ‘Never Quit’ merchandise to cancer victims and their families for various expenses. He also added he hoped to eventually fund a scholarship at UT Martin for young women as they pursue their dreams.
Pearson went on to say early detection and getting a second opinion were especially critical messages of the ‘Never Quit’ Foundation.
UT Martin Athletics Director Phil Dane said he was aware of Lori’s condition throughout her illness and cancer battle because her involvement on campus as a student-athlete from 1989-93.
He said he knew of Johnny because of his involvement as an OVC official and thought it was appropriate that the university reach out to the family cause after reading on the Caring Bridge website that a small trailer was needed to transport merchandise to games, festivals and other such gatherings.
“We knew of Lori’s illness from the beginning and then followed her situation,” Dane said. “She was one of us here at UTM, and when I read that Johnny had a need for a trailer, I really wanted to help.”
Johnny will speak briefly before Saturday’s second softball game (vs. Tennessee Tech) and the second baseball game (vs. Morehead State) about his inspiration and vision for the foundation.
Donations will be accepted at the game and can also be sent (made payable to “The Never Quit Foundation”) can be sent to Danelle Fabianich, 1020 Elam Center, UT Martin, 38238.
Johnny is raising the couple’s three pre-teen sons Kaleb, Konnor and Kade with the help of his mother. He co-owns a recycling business in Huntingdon with his brother. Previously a football and basketball official with some Ohio Valley Conference experience, he chuckled now that being a father, a business owner and championing the cause of his late wife leaves him little time for anything else.
“I just live 30 minutes at a time,” he laughed. “I don’t plan much after what I’m going to do for the next 30 minutes.”
And just like his late wife, Pearson says he’ll ‘Never Quit.’
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

wcp 5/5/11

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