Every year at Hoopfest, there are stories which serve as a reminder that life happens outside the lines of the court. The beauty of the community is when those circumstances intersect.
Several teams took to the court on Saturday playing for a common purpose: to honor special people in their lives who are gone or who are going through exceptionally challenging times. One of those teams is Heath’s Heroes, a co-ed youth team from the small town of Deary, Idaho which played in front of its namesake, sporting shirts reading, “Fight, Win, Cure.”
Colten Heath and friends are dedicating their Hoopfest 2017 effort to Colten’s father Aaron, 39, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in September. They came up with the team name and slogan because they want to raise awareness about the disease, which takes many courses in its victims but is almost always progressively debilitating.
ALS is more commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” One of its most prominent figures is Spokane’s Steve Gleason, who is battling it publicly and inspiring others like Aaron. According to the National Institute of Health, ALS “is a rare group of neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement.”
On Saturday afternoon, the family watched on as Colten and his teammates dispatched their opponent. Then the family was highly emotional as they shared the journey of the last 10 months. His father’s speech started being affected then and now he often falls down due to a loss of muscle control in his legs. “I know what’s coming and I’m ready for it,” says Aaron.
Colten is the quarterback on his school’s football team and they are honoring his father with special decals on their helmets. His sister Graci’s basketball team is doing something similar. A recent fundraiser in Lewiston, Idaho raised substantial funds for the family. Meanwhile, accessibility resources from those who have lost loved ones to the disease are pouring in – and the family is extremely grateful for the support, especially from their town of 500 people.
On Saturday, they channeled their efforts on the court for Aaron’s father, then celebrated off it with him. All of them know this will be a long, difficult journey, but each of the family members said on Saturday that they are ready for their role in the upcoming fight – especially Aaron.
“I’m ready, bring it on,” says Aaron, who is optimistic and will be back next week for follow-up appointments in Spokane with his doctors. “I’ve got all the tools I need to fight this disease!”
-Authored by Jeff Bunch