LDS Teen with 22q11 Deletion Syndrome Gets Surprise Chance to Shine
Contributed By By Ty, Lynn, and Gretchen Gregson, Church News contributors
McKay Gregson, a high school senior from Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and a member of the Church, has a disorder called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (also known as DiGeorge syndrome), which has caused him to have difficulties with socializing, learning, and physical coordination.
McKay has spent the last three years as a manager for the Prairie Grove High School basketball team. He sat on the bench to get the boys water, cheered them on, and got to shoot with them before practice. Although McKay never got to play, he was always considered part of the team.
On February 14, 2014, the Prairie Grove Tigers played their rival, Farmington. The ongoing rivalry, known as the “Battle of Highway 62,” has often caused animosity between the two teams. Because it was Senior Night for Prairie Grove, their coach, Steve Edminston, gave McKay the opportunity to dress and sit with the team.
In the final minutes of the game, when it was clear that Prairie Grove probably wouldn’t win, students started to chant, “Put McKay in!” Coach Ed put McKay into the game without hesitation.
With just 6.7 seconds left on the clock, the ball was passed to McKay, who tossed up a shot that was just short of making it. The ball was rebounded by opposing team member Jeremy Mueller, who unexpectedly turned around and threw the ball back to McKay to shoot again. McKay took a few steps back, took a shot, and scored just as the buzzer sounded.
Prairie Grove had lost the game, but everyone in the gym was cheering for that last shot, celebrating an amazing moment given to a special needs boy and Jeremy's Christlike act of sportsmanship.
As the days passed, many more people saw the special shot on YouTube. Many friends and members of the community continued to express to the Gregson family how the experiences with McKay had somehow softened their hearts, gave them hope they had lost, and helped them put life into perspective. “It has been the love of God shining forth for so many to feel. We get to feel it all the time with McKay in our home, but it is so awesome to be able to see others getting to feel it as well,” said McKay's father, Lynn Gregson.
Prairie Grove went on to win the district championship, and McKay got to accept the trophy for the team. After this night, an anonymous donor offered to have t-shirts made and donate all of the proceeds of the sales to research for 22q11 deletion syndrome.
The Gregson family chose for the proceeds to go to the Dempster Family Foundation, a group that holds events for awareness and fundraising for research of 22q11 deletion syndrome. The founder, Ryan Dempster, who pitched for the Red Sox when the team won the World Series, started the foundation when his daughter, Riley, was diagnosed with 22q11 five years ago.
Through social media, Dempster and the chief executive of the foundation, Michelle Breedlove-Sells, were made aware of the amazing acts of love and sportsmanship that occurred in Prairie Grove. They were so touched to see the love and support that two rival communities gave to a child with 22q11, as well as the shot made by McKay, that they decided to come and meet them. They came and presented McKay and Jeremy with the “Pitching In Award,” an award that, Dempster said, “is presented to individuals, teams, and organizations who have positively impacted the life of someone affected by 22q11.”
McKay, who attends the Prairie Grove Arkansas Ward, will be serving as a Church-service missionary in the Tulsa Oklahoma Mission over the summer, with the assistance of his older brother, a returned missionary. In the fall McKay will be attending Launch, a special program for young adults with disabilities, on the University of Arkansas campus.