Travis Dechene, midfielder, Newville Big Spring (Pa.)

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei

Travis Dechene only wanted what was best for his high school.

And it didn't matter that he was one of three boys playing for the Newville Big Spring (Pa.) field hockey team, or whether the team finished near the bottom of the league, or that he was also a participant in football, swimming, and track.

All he wanted to do was play. But if opposition from administrators and opposing players didn't stop him from playing field hockey, back pain first treated in 2003 eventually would.

It wasn't a back strain from playing hockey, though. It was bone cancer.

Aggressive treatments commenced at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. But the cancer was even more aggressive.

But as time wore on through chemotherapy, Dechene thought his place had to be elsewhere.

"He would go to the swim meets and cheer on the team," said Big Springs principal John Scudder to The Carlisle Sentinel. He would be exhausted but come in to cheer on Big Spring High School. That's the kind of kid he was - very selfless, very caring."

That selflessness transferred over to the student body. The school's dance marathon was renamed The Trav-A-Palooza Mini-Thon, with proceeds going to his cancer treatments.

He had hoped to graduate at the end of the 2005 academic year, but he lost his battle Oct. 21, 2004.

"He was a wonderful young guy with a heart of gold," Scudder says. "He would do anything for anybody. If you saw Travis, you would never know the pain and suffering he was going through."

Travis Dechene is now in a better place, both as a field hockey pioneer and as a person. And, perhaps, it serves as an object lesson for us all.