Student with cerebral palsy assists on touching moment, inspires basketball fans
Tuesday night in Morganton, one of Freedom High’s biggest basketball fans experienced a moment he won’t soon forget – and fans in attendance won’t either. Mitchell Greathouse, a Freedom High senior who was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy at 9 months old, donned the jersey of his favorite team and entered the game. “Mitchell is pretty amazing,” said Freedom High teacher Meghan Welty, who has worked closely with him for two years.Welty wanted to use Greathouse’s love of Freedom and the boys’ basketball team as a motivation tool. Greathouse is confined to a wheelchair, but as part of his adaptive physical education and physical therapy he’s been using a special walker – also known as a gait trainer – to take steps each day.
He could take a maximum of about 25 steps when he started in the fall.“So,” Welty said, “I got together with (coach Rogers) and said, ‘If he can take 50 steps would you allow him to play?’ He said, ‘Of course.’ ” The challenge was issued in November. Greathouse met the goal in a day, and Rogers began devising a plan for him to play.The big day came Tuesday in Morganton, about 75 miles northwest of Charlotte. Wearing jersey No. 15, Greathouse was introduced with Freedom’s starters.
“It was so great to be part of such a special night,” Rogers said, “and it took so many people to help pull it off. You’ve got the other school in town, the crosstown rivalry game, and their people are so willing to help. That was amazing, too.”When the game started, Freedom was given the ball. It was placed in a basket on the front of the gait trainer. The play called for Greathouse to take a step with the ball and imitate a dribble. On court with Greathouse were Zachary Beam, a state trooper who had been Greathouse’s school-day assistant for four years, and teacher’s assistant Marylin Waters.After Greathouse got the ball and took his step, Beam pulled a lever to release the ball from the basket and onto the floor, simulating Greathouse’s pass to Freedom High senior Niquel Moore.Moore took a dribble and scored.Fans in the gymnasium cheered wildly.“That night was amazing,” Welty said.“We live in a small town and the gym was packed full and the student section was full and they all had hand-made signs. I expected that Wednesday, when I got to school, that it would be crazy. But it’s Friday, three days later, and it’s still the talk here.