A basketball dream come true for girl with cancer
Both the fans and the players of a game at Valley Park High School knew the score before the game even began.
“I think it’s going to be amazing, I really do,” said Coach Danny Blackshear.
The girls on the St. Louis North Stars have a new teammate who gives determination a new definition.
“Most of my family is coming and they haven’t seen me play basketball in five years,” said 17-year-old Emily Linneman.
Linneman has loved the game of basketball ever since she was a little girl and she never wanted to stop. But her cancer had other ideas. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that requires aggressive treatment.
“Half a year of chemo, amputation and another year of chemo,” she told us.
Even after all that, late last year the cancer returned and Emily’s hopes of ever playing again departed.
That’s when Brian Judy stepped in.
“The whole premise of what we do is we feel like we are blessed so let’s give back to others. How can we help people,” he explained.
Judy runs the Kids4Kids soccer tournament which raises money for local children’s charities. As soon as he heard Emily’s story from a friend, he contacted another friend, Danny Blackshear with North Stars basketball.
“Our mission is to assist and to help young kids become better citizens, better athletes and just better people,” explained Blackshear.
And together they decided that they would give Emily another shot.
No matter how much pain she was in, no matter how tired she was, Emily spent the last few weeks coming to practice and getting to know her teammates.
“When I’m playing and I get tired and then I see her get tired, it’s like I need to keep going!” 15-year-old Hannah Berendzen said.
Another teammate, 17-year-old Jordyn Pettigrew said, “Emily’s character. There are no words to describe her character. She pushes; she won’t let anything stop her.”
Which brings us back to that North Stars game against the Valley Park Hawks.
Late in the first half with the North Stars in front, this little gym echoed with big cheers. The coach put Emily came into the game.
Over the next few minutes, her teammates did everything they could to get her the ball. But no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t get one to go in. And that wasn’t her only frustration.
“Not being able to run is really hard to watch the other girls run,” Emily said through tears.
But at least she finally got to play again. Then at halftime, she got something else.
Organizers sent word out about Emily’s story and gifts poured in, from all over the country. Women’s teams from California to Minnesota sent game gear. And from Emily’s favorite school, the University of Missouri, there was a giant card autographed by every player on the Tigers calling Emily an inspiration.
For the coach, it had suddenly become personal.
“Excuse me,” Blackshear said through tears. “It’s very personal. But sometimes you get put into these positions for a reason.”
Even tough coaches are not made of stone and neither are their game plans.
So in the second half, Emily was sent back in the game and a short time later she finally did what everybody in the gym, including her opponents wanted her to do.
She made both her shot and a lasting memory for everyone that was there.
Emily is likely facing more chemotherapy but for one night, basketball did what the doctors couldn’t. It made the cancer go away.
“They have no idea how thankful I am,” said an emotional Kim Linneman, Emily’s mom. “To see her on the court again, to see her this happy it means the world.”
A night when a game was more than just a game and a nightmare was turned into a dream come true.
The story was also ran on Channel 4 KMOV, click on the logo below to view that article