Josh Jennings: 2024 Riley Champion
Terre Haute South Vigo High School sophomore Josh Jennings is an athlete at his core. His current focus is weight training, and he’s winning awards and breaking records at Powerlifting tournaments. “I enjoy working hard and seeing results,” he says. According to his dad, Darrel Jennings, “Josh is one of those kids who has been blessed to pick things up quickly when it comes to physical challenges.”
Josh’s strength became critically important when he was 6 years old. He had just finished a swim competition when the first signs of trouble appeared. “He got out of the pool screaming that his head hurt, and Josh never complained about anything,” says his mom, Lisa Jennings.
A local doctor visit led to blood work that indicated Josh had leukemia. The family was sent immediately to Riley Children’s Health, where pediatric oncologist James Croop, M.D., and nurse practitioner Sharon Tormoehlen guided his three-year cancer treatment plan for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) B. “I’ll never forget crying because he was so weak. He couldn’t even walk to the bathroom to take his bath,” recalls Lisa. “And this was a kid who was climbing trees, always going. To see him that way was rough.”
But soon enough, Josh was stunning everyone by returning to the sports he loved while still fighting cancer. As a nurse practitioner, Tormoehlen was impressed by her patient’s strength. “My hope is that Josh will continue to inspire others to fight throughout their treatment, and to not let their illness get in the way of their goals,” says Tormoehlen.
After Josh rang the bell to celebrate his successful completion of treatment, the elementary school where his mother teaches — and Josh’s former elementary — hosted a celebration, raising $1,200 for Riley. Today, Josh is feeling the strong pull to give back in his own ways. He says it’s an honor to be named a Riley Champion. “Keep fighting. You’ve got to have hope,” Josh advises other kids facing medical challenges. “You’re going to have your bad times. You've just got to keep going. It gets better. Be happy, always keep hope, and hang on.”