CINCINNATI — Mitch Stone, "adopted" team member and inspiration for Bearcats football since 2009, died Wednesday at the age of 23, according to an announcement from UC Football.
Our friend and teammate Mitch Stone, who inspired @GoBearcatsFB during the 2009 season and beyond, passed away suddenly this week. He loved the #Bearcats and was lost far too soon.— Cincinnati Bearcats (@GoBEARCATS) January 23, 2021
📝: https://t.co/TnOIcv8IsO pic.twitter.com/lPVMP9CDg2
Stone, who battled a brain tumor as a child, was originally adopted by the football team in 2009 through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
Stone became an inspiration for the team, attending practices and games when his health allowed. UC Football said Stone helped teammates through tough times by messaging them throughout the season. In 2010, Stone led the team out of the tunnel at the Allstate Sugar Bowl to cap off their undefeated 2009 regular season.
Tony Pike, former UC quarterback, Tweeted about how important Stone was to the 2009 team while he was captain.
"This one is too tough," Pike said. "Mitch Stone meant so much to me and the '09 team, changing lives forever! Fighting, and beating cancer, with a smile the whole time! Accomplished so much and was just starting! My thoughts are with the whole family! A Bearcat forever."
This one is too tough.. Mitch Stone meant so much to me and the 09 team..changing lives forever! Fighting, and beating cancer, with a smile the whole time! Accomplished so much and was just starting! My thoughts are with the whole family! A Bearcat forever https://t.co/zf5VfRAuuH pic.twitter.com/tBzjZ0nKLz— Tony Pike (@tony_pike15) January 22, 2021
Stone started Mitch's Mission foundation, sending children with similar health challenges to summer camp at Camp Joy in Clarksville, Ohio. He went on to attend UC, starting off his freshman year by leading Down the Drive in front of the student section at a game against UT Martin. Stone graduated with honors from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business in 2020.
After graduation, Stone was starting to learn the family optical business and began rehabbing a house he bought with his twin brother. His mother said he had plans to open a store in Clifton so he could be close to two of his favorite places, UC and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
"We are heartbroken to lose our dear son, but grateful that in his short time spent here on earth he impacted so many," Dee Stone, Mitch's mother, said in a Facebook post. "Mitch had a long road with his cancer diagnosis at the age of 11, but he came out the other side healthy and fit. He was a truly good and caring person --everybody liked him. He always took the time to listen and appreciated a well-told story and a good laugh. He loved UC football, collecting weird things, thrift shopping, running, hiking & camping, spending time with his family and many, many friends. He will be in our hearts forever. We are grateful for your prayers and support."
Memorial arrangements for Stone are pending.