WOUB Student Reporter Recognized by State Chancellor

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Erik Threet II
Erik Threet II

When Ohio University junior Erik Threet II was asked to do a story about a terminally ill Wellston High School student last fall, he never dreamed it would lead to an official recognition from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

On Feb. 22, Wellston resident and Ohio University alumnus John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, traveled to the Athens Campus to present Threet with the inaugural “Chancellor’s Excellence in Student Journalism” commendation.

As chancellor, Carey oversees the state’s public two-year and four-year institutions and Ohio Technical Centers. He also provides policy guidance to Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly, with the advice of the Board of Regents, and carries out state higher education policy.

Threet’s approximately three-minute story for the Gridiron Glory high school football show was about Austin Milliken, a 17-year-old Wellston High School student battling a terminal case of brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM). He served as one of the football team’s managers.

According to the American Stroke Association, a brain AVM occurs when a tangle of blood vessels in the brain or on its surface bypasses normal brain tissue and directly diverts blood from the arteries to the veins. Symptoms often include an intracranial hemorrhage, focal or generalized seizures, localized head pain due to increased blood flow and difficulty with movement, speech and vision.

Threet, a native of Rockville, Maryland, said he was given the assignment of traveling to Wellston High School to tell Milliken’s story after Wendy Henry, the mother of Austin’s best friend Noah Henry, reached out to WOUB.

Henry invited the Gridiron Glory reporters to the Sept. 23 Wellston vs. Alexander football game as part of the national AVM Awareness Project. She told them that Austin’s Army, a group of people who were dedicated to supporting Austin during his battle with AVM, had planned some activities during the game to create awareness about the disease as well as raise money to help support Milliken’s family.

Carey said he is among the people who learned more about AVM because of Threet’s story.

“I would see Austin around town, but I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” Carey said. “Erik went above and beyond his normal duties. Because of his story, awareness of this disease increased throughout the area.”

Many people, including the Alexander High School Football Team, participated in the fundraising efforts for Austin.

Carey said he happened to be sitting in the stands during the Alexander vs. Wellston football game and noticed Threet working hard to capture Milliken’s story.

“I was wondering who this student was running all over the field with his camera,” Carey said.

Threet said he quickly developed a relationship with the teenager and said he admired how he was doing his best to live a normal life despite the difficulties that AVM created for him every day.

“Seeing Austin’s situation made me realize how good I have it,” Threet said. “He couldn’t do normal things like cook or drive. He always needed rest.”

Unfortunately, Milliken died on Jan. 5 after being on bed rest since November.

Threet said he visited Milliken at his home a few weeks before he died and still stays in touch with the Milliken and Henry families, who traveled to Cutler Hall on the Athens Campus to witness him getting his commendation from Carey.

“I didn’t expect to receive recognition for the story, I was just helping spread awareness about AVM and how it was affecting Austin’s life,” Threet said. “I would never want to do a story like this and never call or contact the families again. That would make me feel like I used them.”

Threet even wrote a letter to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and their star player LeBron James asking them to send game tickets to Milliken because that was his favorite team and his dream was to play in the NBA.

Threet said the Cavaliers responded by sending tickets to the Milliken family for a preseason game in Columbus and they also sent their Scream Team to Columbus’ Children’s Hospital to visit the sick teenager during one of his stays.

Threet said the Wellston community also presented the Millikens with tickets to a regular season Cavaliers game in November. Unfortunately, Austin didn’t make it to either Cavaliers game because of illness.

Carey said Threet proved through his actions that he is an outstanding young man with high character and that he hopes that his potential employers recognize that after he graduates from OHIO.

“Hopefully Erik stays and works in Ohio after he graduates,” Carey said. “I just wanted everyone to know that he did an outstanding job of reporting.”

Gridiron Glory High School Football Show airs live from 11:30 p.m. to midnight every Friday and re-airs at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning during the high school football season.