Basketball team donates winning trophies to people battling cancer, hoping to inspire strength

Posted at 11:03 AM, Apr 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 11:00:03-04

There are thousands of people battling cancer every day, and a San Antonio basketball team is trying to make a difference in the lives of those fighters - one tournament at a time.

The San Antonio Dream Team started nine years ago, and so did their dream to help people battling cancer.

The team president, Stacy Adams, said it all began when one player's aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Adams was looking for something to give the team extra motivation to do something good.

"One day we went to the guys and said 'Guys, we want to do more than just basketball - we don't just want to win. We want to have a cause,'" Adams said.

The player with an aunt who was battling cancer was the first to raise his hand. He wanted to play to help cure breast cancer.

And while breast cancer was the original fight, the team's cause soon expanded. The Dream Team only had one goal in mind - to take cancer down one shot at a time.

"There is no cure, and we understand that they are fighting every day for something that seems like a mission that can't be completed," Coach Leroy Hartley said.

When the team wins a tournament, they dedicate the medals from the tournament to a cancer survivor or a person fighting the disease.  

"When we take the medals off our chest and we put it around their neck, we want them to always remember that we were there with them, and we are fighting for them," Coach Hartley said.

And players from the Dream Team feel the same way. 

"I hope it represents hope because when people are giving up and wanting to quit they can see that trophy and keep on fighting," one player said.

Crossroads Church Pastor, Matt Thrasher was at a tournament in San Antonio with his son when he was approached by the Dream Team.

"And so I saw Matt in the corner with his family talking and I said I am going to go over there and just ask him if they know someone who is fighting with cancer right now," Adams said.

"And so my wife and I said yeah, actually we have a really close friend, Terry McMillan, who is like family to us, and he is in the hospital right now," Thrasher said.

Following an explanation of the Dream Team's mission, Thrasher quickly agreed to accept the medals on his McMillian's behalf.

Terry was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma last summer, which meant he had cancer in multiple parts of his body. Pastor Thrasher went straight to Baylor Scott &White in Temple to present the medals to McMillian and his wife Leanna.

Thrasher and his family filmed the presentation to share with the Dream Team and people on Facebook.

"It gave me a huge boost that day, and it made me happy - and I was very humbled and very honored," McMillian said. "It was at a point where I had been in the hospital several days already, and it was starting to wear on me, and it just gave me a huge boost of energy. I was like 'You know what, I can do this." 

And the dedication was equally special for the players.

"My first presentation was actually Terry's, and I didn't know that we gave the medals and the trophy to a cancer survivor like him and knowing that we do that now makes me just want to play even more. It brings joy to my heart," one player said.  "Seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing that even though we can't cure it for them we are playing for them makes not only them happy, but us happy too."

And while McMillian was honored by the moment, he said it's still unbelievable.

"I am still kind of in shock by it all just because it was totally unexpected, but it's so humbling that these young men who work very hard and obviously practice very hard and the fact that they are willing to give up their trophy and medals for a complete stranger they don't even know is incredible," McMillan said.

And although Terry was a stranger at first, with the help of Central Texas News Now, he was able to meet his dream team just in time for a celebration.

"I am doing good, cancer seems to be in remission. I am done with all of my treatments. At this point I am just trying to recover from the Phase 2 Chemo and get stronger," McMillan said.

But the Dream Team said if Terry ever has to start his battle again, they will be there.

"You are not alone, we are here for you."

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