#CoreyStrong: Volleyball community rallies around Centerville coach

Corey Burge, Centerville boys volleyball coach

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Corey Burge, Centerville boys volleyball coach

A nagging cold, the flu, maybe pneumonia, but Corey Burge wasn’t ready for the diagnosis he received – cancer.

The 28-year-old Centerville High School volleyball coach had Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that is most common in young adults. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 8,110 new cases of Hodgkin lymphoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year – 4,570 in male patients.

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“It was shocking,” Burge said. “Even now, a few months later, when I tell people, I’m still kind of in shock.”

The medical whirlwind began with a trip to urgent care in January when Burge was having difficulty breathing after venturing into the cold air after a dinner out with friends.

“I was wheezing so hard I was turning heads,” he said.

An x-ray indicated fluid around his heart, which resulted in an ambulance ride to Kettering Medical Center. It was there that doctors discovered a large mass in his chest. A second biopsy, days later, confirmed the cancer diagnosis.

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Members of the Centerville High School boys vollleyball team wearing their #CoreyStrong T-shirts in honor of coach Corey Burge, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. CONTRIBUTED

Members of the Centerville High School boys vollleyball team wearing their #CoreyStrong T-shirts in honor of coach Corey Burge, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. CONTRIBUTED

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Members of the Centerville High School boys vollleyball team wearing their #CoreyStrong T-shirts in honor of coach Corey Burge, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. CONTRIBUTED

"It might sound strange, but we were blessed to have it be cancer so that we can treat it," said Aimee Stephens, Burge's mom. "Given the alternatives, it was the best news we could have gotten."

It was then and there that the coach learned what an amazing team he really has – and not just the Elks. Burge is also an Air City club coach and a volleyball player himself in rec and sand leagues. He had so many visitors that the hospital staff repeatedly reminded him that he needed rest more than he needed to see people. Burge disagreed.

“The support system has been so amazing, I’m almost speechless,” he said. “You know you have friends and then something like this happens and it’s like ‘holy crap,’ it is unbelievable how many people are there for you.”

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Chemotherapy treatments started soon after his diagnosis, and he handed over head coaching duties — for now — to Centerville girls coach John Buck. That hasn’t kept Burge out of the gym.

“The worst thing is not being there all the time for my team,” he said. “I try to make the games and some practices when I can. It’s day-to-day.”

The Dayton area volleyball community has rallied around him. From morale-boosting hospital visits to making #coreystrong T-shirts, hosting a spaghetti dinner and creating a GoFundMe campaign to help with medical expenses, Team Corey has been out in full force.

“Corey is a very positive person, very methodical, he definitely has a plan to succeed,” said former Centerville coach Monte Moser. “When he beats this thing, we’re all going to be a part of it.”

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Corey Burge’s mom, Aimee Stephens (left) , and his fiancee’s mom, Marie Biggs, wearing #CoreyStrong T-shirts as their new bowling league uniforms. CONTRIBUTED

Corey Burge’s mom, Aimee Stephens (left) , and his fiancee’s mom, Marie Biggs, wearing #CoreyStrong T-shirts as their new bowling league uniforms. CONTRIBUTED

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Corey Burge’s mom, Aimee Stephens (left) , and his fiancee’s mom, Marie Biggs, wearing #CoreyStrong T-shirts as their new bowling league uniforms. CONTRIBUTED

Even other schools are supporting Burge’s battle. The Alter boys volleyball players will wear the #coreystrong T-shirts when they face the Elks on May 11. The Knights will also run a 50/50 and gift basket raffle to contribute to the fundraising efforts.

“The volleyball world is small, we all know each other,” Alter coach Craig Erford said. “We may be rivals on the court, but we definitely support each other off the court.”

The response has been heart-warming and humbling to Burge and his family.

“The volleyball community has been an incredible support system,” Stephens said. “I didn’t realize how big this was. The love they have shown for Corey has been overwhelming.”

While Burge is still focused on helping the Elks tally their first win of the season, winning this battle against lymphoma is his priority. Good news came Monday after a recent scan confirmed that the chemo is shrinking the mass.

“It was the best news we could have hoped for,” he said.


Benefit Dinner For Corey

What: Help Corey in his battle with lymphoma

When: Saturday, 5-8 p.m.

Where: Centerville High School, 500 E. Franklin St.

Cost: Tickets are $15 per person and available at the door or online (www.elksvolleyball.com). Advance sale tickets are encouraged.

How to Help

GoFundMe: Help Corey Beat Lymphoma (www.gofundme.com/help-corey-beat-lymphoma)

#coreystrong apparel: T-shirts, tote bags and more (https://coreystrong.lizardapstore.com/)

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