ROCHESTER, Mich. - It's not every day you get your name and picture up on the big screen at O-Rena, but Monday was not just any day at Oakland University.
You could feel the excitement build as the Golden Grizzlies soccer team filed in and the man of honor took his seat.
Monday is 10-year-old Alex Vanholder's draft day.
Once he put pen to paper, it was official, but Alex has been a part of the team for a few months now.
"He's traveled to a couple of our away games, he's been a part of team meals," said Eric Pogue, Oakland men's soccer head coach. "The guys ask all the time, ‘when is Alex coming out again?'"
Recently doctors discovered a medulloblastoma tumor on his brain. He went through extensive surgery to remove it. Now, he regularly goes through chemotherapy treatments at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
"All the stuff he's been through, he just sits on a hospital bed and you can see depression sets in," Matthew Vanholder, Alex's dad, said. "This experience has given him excitement. You can see it when he stands in the middle of 25 guys on the field."
The Mayville, Michigan, native is really shy, especially with cameras in his face, but he lights up when he's near his newest buddy, Wilfred Williams. Same is true for the senior defender.
"Him and I have this really nice big brother, little brother relationship," Williams said. "We talk about baseball, we talk about soccer, we talk about life in general. He texts me, I text him."
Alex admits baseball is his favorite sport, but Williams and the rest of the Grizzlies have taught him a thing or two about soccer. Really, the life lesson was taught by a 10-year-old to everyone else, about what's truly important.
Now little Alex has a whole team behind him on his fight.
Monday's draft day was made possible by a non-profit organization called Team Impact, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.
Team Impact is a national organization, based in Boston.
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