A Special Bond


Michael Billman and Nicholas Hatheway

In Massillon, the football team brings people in the community together and one of the most unlikely friendships is between Tiger senior football player Emanuel McElroy and 10-year-old Nathan Forte.

The young Tiger fan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in December of 2018. Forte has had numerous chemotherapy sessions at Akron Children’s Hospital and there were times when Forte needed his spirits lifted. That’s when McElroy entered the picture.

During this past summer, Forte was battling his disease. At the same time, McElroy was battling other players. But they became close. Emanuel, or “Manny” as he is called, would go to his teammate’s house, Michael Billman, to help his friend with yard work. Michael is Nathan’s older brother.

 That’s when Manny and Nathan formed an instant brotherly love for each other, hanging out and spending quality time with each other.

“I didn’t really know how to act, but that’s OK now because that’s my dawg.” McElroy said when he first met Nathan. Meanwhile, Nathan’s first thoughts when he saw Manny were: “He’s nice, funny, loving, and he cares a lot about me. I love Massillon football, it’s fun to watch. It’s nice to be included.”

At the end of the day, both Manny and Nathan are fighters. They both are working toward difficult goals- together. Manny wants to help Massillon win a state championship. “The offseason workouts were hard,” Manny said. “On a scale from 1-10, they were a 97.” And Nathan won’t ever quiet fighting, no matter how many times he had to go through chemotherapy. “It was like getting the flu but 15 times worse.”