Alberta teen with 3 brain tumours becomes school basketball team’s manager
Sherwood Park teenager Ryan Hauck is living his dream of playing basketball, thanks to a supportive coach and teammates.
Ryan’s mom, Kimberley Hauck, said her son just learned learned how to play basketball last year at the Free2BeMe program for special needs kids.
He fell in love with the sport and became more and more interested in it.
“He got word that his school was having basketball tryouts and he was like, ‘Mom! Mom! I really want to be on the team. I want to try out for the basketball team,'” Kimberley recalled.
The F.R. Haythorne senior boys basketball coach had taught Ryan in grades seven and eight and was surprised to see him.
“He showed up for our first 7 a.m. tryout with a lot of energy. He was pretty pumped about it. About 10 minutes in, he’s like, ‘Alright, I’m good to go – that’s it,'” laughed coach Tanner Stephens.
Ryan was born with neurofibromatosis, a condition that impairs his motor skills as tumours appear randomly in his body.
Ryan went to every tryout but just before the coach made his selections, Kimberley sat Ryan down.
“As a mom, I had to have the talk with him that, ‘You’re probably not going to make it on the team. You’re not going to be able to keep up with the regular kids,'” she said.
Together, they made a plan to ask coach Stephens if there was another way Ryan could be part of the team – but he was already on it.
“I thought to myself, ‘It’d be awesome to have him involved with the team. He’s such an awesome kid,'” Stephens said. “Just as I went to approach him to be the manager of the team, he was asking if he could be the waterboy so it matched up pretty nicely.”
Ryan happily accepted his manager role. He has lots of responsibilities.
“Watch the team, coach the team, yell at the boys,” he explained.
His teammate and friend Evan Labonne said Ryan takes his job pretty seriously.
“He threatens to run us in practice which always gets us going in games, so you make sure you’re doing your best,” he joked.
The team decided to include Ryan in their warm-ups by having him shoot a foul shot.
“What we do is we circle around and even if it takes him five minutes for one shot, we’re still going to be there,” Labonne said. “Then we start as soon as he makes his first shot.”
It’s something that brought tears to Kimberley’s eyes each game.
“He just wanted to do what other kids his age do which is play sports and especially basketball. This school gave him the opportunity,” she said.
Ryan’s mom said she can’t thank coach Stephens enough.
“His coach went above and beyond… letting him ride on the bus with the team and the coach has even driven Ryan home,” she explained. “He went and ordered him all the team gear so he can wear what the team wears.”
But Stephens wasn’t done quite yet.
“I thought about it all year. I wanted to do something special for him, just because he’s been such a huge part of our team and has meant so much to the boys and to myself,” he said. “His positivity is just super infectious for all of us and it’s made it a really awesome season.”
So last week, he called Ryan off the sidelines and onto the court for his first ever game.
“He came out, ready to go. Warmed up, was super into it. He was really excited. He told me he was only going to go in for 30 seconds and that was it. He went in and the boys were super excited,” Stephens recalled.
Then they passed the ball to Ryan in the key.
“He took a couple shots to get there. The boys kept rebounding for him and then he finally hit it. It was really exciting. His smile just lit up the room and I don’t think there was too many dry eyes in the gymnasium that night.”
“It was a super special moment. The highlight of my coaching career to see just the pure joy on his face and the rest of the team.”
Ryan’s face lights up when he remembers that day.
“It was an amazing game. My first two points,” he said.
Again, Kimberley burst into tears.
“Ryan called that the best moment of his life. It’s something I’ll never forget,” she said. “As a mom of a special needs child, you never get to have those regular kid moments, letting him just be one of the guys. All of your hopes and dreams are put to the side and you just focus on survival and hope he’s going to make it.”
Ryan is graduating Grade 9 this year and moving over to Bev Facey High School. He said the thing he’ll miss most is his teammates.
“They’re wonderful guys.”
Labonne is planning on going to the same school, and while Ryan isn’t sure if he’ll try out for the Bev Facey team, his friend hopes he does.
“I’m going to, and I certainly hope I get to be on the team with him. I’ve had a great year with him this year and I hope we can do it again.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.