(Published May 3, 2015)
Chris Sohl will be a senior at Flowing Wells next year. Diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2013, Sohl battled back and will be playing on the hardwood for the Caballeros for one final season – a season that will be another gift in a life full of dreams and wishes that came true.
Elbowed on the side of his head in practice, Sohl experienced abnormal bleeding and discomfort not usually associated with a concussion. The injury prompted a visit to the doctor and they found the traces of what every parent fears in his blood.
“I started treatments for leukemia the day after they found out,” Sohl said. “I was in treatment the rest of that summer and almost all of my junior year.”
Mark Brunenkant is more than the football coach that most people know him as at Flowing Wells. Brunenkant has had success coaching at one of the true neighborhood programs remaining in Tucson.
Brunenkant is also a Health and Physical Education teacher at the school and that’s where he got to know Sohl. Knowing Sohl’s dream was to meet Kobe Bryant, he sent an anonymous message to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, not knowing if the message would be heard.
“They came to my house and told me someone from my school nominated me for a wish,” Sohl explained. “I told them I would like to meet Kobe Bryant or take my family to Disneyworld in Orlando.
“I found out six months later that I was one of the few kids selected to meet Kobe and they flew us to the Laker’s training facility in El Segundo.”
Founded in 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s mission is to, “Grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.”
The Mission was a success.
“After watching practice we went to a room and Kobe came in by himself to talk to us for over an hour. He is a nice person and I told him he was my role model.”
Not knowing what to ask a role model especially under those conditions can be overwhelming but not for Sohl.
“I asked him if he would grow his afro back for me,” Sohl added. “He laughed and said he was too old for that.”
After taking a family photo with Bryant, the family visited relatives in California before heading home. Home to more intense therapy.
“I was sick and tired but I knew I needed to keep going. My dad told me to stay positive. It was a terrible feeling.”
Sohl had a cousin pass away from cancer in 2004 and another pass away while he was going through treatments from the same disease. I’m not sure, but I can bet his parents’ wishes included Kobe Bryant and a whole lot more.
Sohl came back to school in the middle of his junior year and waited to be cleared to play basketball on the junior varsity squad. He had a port inserted in his chest to deliver medications so that had to be protected.
There were four games left in the season and he was finally fitted for a jersey that would allow him to play once more.
“I still get maintenance once a month and everything is good,” he added. “I’m down to 141 pounds and I’m playing spring league at my school and will play summer league.”
Sohl found out it was Brunenkant who nominated him and he’s forever grateful. Let’s hope “forever” really is forever.
“My mom came and saw one of my games and was concerned. There were a lot of people who helped me and I can’t wait till next year.”
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org