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Chesapeake teen receives surprise to help return to running after losing leg to cancer

Levi Barrera and his family were honored at the ODU-Wake Forest game, shortly after moving back to the United States from Italy.

NORFOLK, Va. — In Levi Barrera’s ideal world, he’d be suiting up to play football on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. But after a cancer diagnosis, his plans had to change. 

"I never been so attached to something, because you put in all this effort," Barerra said. "Actual blood sweat and tears and happy I’ve been able to do it. I've never been into football until I played it, and it was just unreal."

Barrera, 17, played center for his school's football team, living overseas in Italy while his father serves in the military. 

Doctors first diagnosed Barrera in April with Synovial sarcoma. In addition to chemotherapy, his right leg was amputated from the knee down. 

"Immediately you think of the worst, amputation was on my mind but I thought 'No way,'" Barrera said. "One hundred percent if I could go back to playing football any day I would."

He had to learn how to live with both his chemotherapy and a prosthetic right leg, while still learning how to live like any other 17-year-old. 

"I feel like they [my family] have had it harder than me honestly. Because, I can deal with it because it’s me. If somebody in my family had to have this happen to them I'd pick me every time. I would never want anyone in my family to feel this way and I know they feel the same way.”

At Old Dominion University's football matchup against Wake Forest, game sponsor Chartway Credit Union surprised Barrera's family with the tools to help him take his next step forward. 

"When we heard about Levi, here’s why he stood out. He was a football player himself, before his amputation, he loves the game and being around it," Christine Wilson, President of the Chartway Promise Foundation, said.

Barrera and his family were honored in the first quarter break of the Monarchs game. There, it was revealed that Barrera would receive an omni-directional treadmill and virtual reality goggles to help him regain his ability to run like before his amputation. 

“He just wanted to be able to run again like he could before the amputation," Wilson said. 

“I just don’t know what I did to deserve it. It’s like, I just got unlucky, but the fact there are people who want to do anything at all means a lot," Barrera said.

Though his days of playing football behind him, Barrera will take the first step on his new path, soon. 

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