December 21, 2023
In the world of rare diseases, where shadows often loom large, champions rise to illuminate a path forward.
Certain individuals are beacons of hope, offering unwavering support and a fighting spirit that inspires others facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. One such champion whose dedication shines brightly is Mitch Mason, who serves as the team chaplain for the University of North Carolina football team.
Mason has been the team chaplain in Chapel Hill for 11 years and is a staple in countless Tar Heels’ journeys. Armed with a compassionate heart and an unwavering resolve, Mason has been a selfless caregiver to provide support, hope, and inspiration to the team beyond the field.
“As a team, we all look to Chaplin Mitch for guidance and support,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Conner Harrell. “When we need him, he’s there.”
One particular story that’s deeply affected the UNC football team is that of senior wide-receiver Tylee Craft. Tylee, a previous Rare Disease Champion team member, was diagnosed with stage four large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer in March of 2022.
“Our team gained a new perspective on life,” UNC football head coach Mack Brown said. “Tylee checked in one day with a bad back, and the next day he’s got cancer. We all know that could be us tomorrow. It changes your outlook in a lot of different ways.”
“As a college football player you don’t spend much time preparing for how you’ll react when a teammate is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer,” said junior running back Elijah Green. “Mitch has taught us and shown us how to be a teammate and a brother and how to support Tylee and one another. Tylee’s diagnosis impacts us all and Mitch’s guidance has helped us all grow together throughout it all.”
While Mason has remained a leader and constant figure of inspiration to the team throughout Craft’s journey, Mason has also been battling his own chronic illness. Mason is diagnosed with idiopathic small fiber neuropathy, an incurable nerve disorder that prevents him from getting out of bed without assistance.
“Mitch tells me, ‘We’re in this together. We’ve got to keep fighting,’” said Craft.
Mason’s ability to continue serving others while battling his own challenge is a true testament to his compassionate nature and devotion to selfless service.
For a family, or a collegiate football program, navigating a loved one’s rare diagnosis often falls on the shoulders of a dedicated caregiver. Often unseen, the caregiver is an unshakeable rock, providing an anchor of love, steadfast support, and the strength to persevere through the stormiest seas and medical obstacles. For a team of top athletes away from their family, Mitch Mason has unflinchingly filled this role for the Tar Heels.
As a team and an organization, the UNC football program is better because of Chaplin Mitch Mason, and has unanimously nominated Mason as an Uplifting Athletes’ Rare Disease Champion.
Because of his commitment to providing hope, healing, and inspiration while battling his own unique challenges, we are excited to recognize UNC football team chaplain Mitch Mason as a Rare Disease Champion.