LAWRENCE, Kan. — Two high schools set their rivalry aside Tuesday night for a four-month-old boy battling a rare cancer.
Nolan and Laura Henderson both teach at Lawrence Free State High School. Their four-month-old son Grit has an extremely rare for of cancer, news the couple received just before Christmas.
“We started the more aggressive chemo treatment on Sunday," Nolan Henderson said. "It’s been his third day in a row. He’s still smiling.”
The baby boy is in Memphis for treatment with his mom while his dad stays in Lawrence to work.
At Tuesday night’s basketball games against Olathe West High School, there was a collective spirit that transcended team colors. The final score was not the focus of the evening. The opposing team had shirts made in support of little Grit. They read: “Owls, We’ve Got You Grit.”
“With such a rare form of cancer that Grit has, and just to see the community pull together, I think it’s just a light that this world needs to be quite honest with you," said Trent Thomas, the parent of an Olathe West cheerleader.
Myron Graber is the principal at Free State. He said the staff all supported the Hendersons during their pregnancy announcement but could’ve never imagined the kind of help they’d need now.
“You never think about something like this, a baby being sick or anything like that," he said.
Nolan Henderson said you can’t even think about losing when you have so much affection, much of it coming from complete strangers.
“You don’t want to be in this situation, but with support like this, it’s hard to believe you’re not going to win," Henderson said.
The Free State family has worked hard to raise money for the family to travel back and forth and for Grit’s medical treatment, but the outreach from their rivals spoke louder-- more than any score or lesson learned on the court.
“We’re going to compete tonight on the basketball floor, and somebody’s going to win, and somebody’s going to lose," Olathe West Principal Jay Novacek said. "But when you have something going on in somebody’s personal life that matters a heck of a lot more than any basketball game. We just wanted to be there to try to support them as much as we could.”
“The kids understand what family and community means, and that’s about as great of a thing as there could be in life -- besides love," Henderson said.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help Grit's fight. You can find it here.