Teen with leukemia to play for Bellarmine vs. Louisville on Sunday
Patrick McSweeney, a Louisville resident, was originally diagnosed with cancer at the age of five and has continued to battle the disease. Two years ago, Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that matches chronically ill children with local college teams, arranged for Davenport to be matched with Division II school Bellarmine and head coach Scott Davenport.
McSweeney has participated in activities with the program since, including a basketball camp this summer. Shortly after the camp, Davenport began to arrange for McSweeney to play in a game for the team, having to clear it through Bellarmine's Great Lakes Valley Conference, Louisville's ACC and the NCAA.
Davenport received approval Wednesday and went to McSweeney's house with a team jersey, warm-ups and shoes to tell him about the opportunity, according to O'Neil.
“Patrick was just speechless," Debbie McSweeney said. “Basketball is this kid’s favorite sport. Having Bellarmine, having something that’s normal, that’s the key. With all of these treatments, all the isolation, normal disappears."
“It’s the boost he needs right now," Debbie said. “Just this week we found out his T cells aren’t being effective and for us to get this news, a day after some really bad news, it’s what he needed. It’s what we all needed right now, to have a little bit more hope."
Because of the unfortunate news about his treatment, McSweeney and his family will have to leave for Philadelphia to receive treatment immediately after the exhibition. The family had been planning to drive, but O'Neil said Louisville coach Rick Pitino instead will pay for the group's flight, transportation and hotel stay for the entirety of its trip, which will be for at least two weeks.
McSweeney's day will come a week after Lauren Hill's inspirational story made national news. Hill, who is terminally ill with inoperable brain cancer, played in her first career game for Mount St. Joseph against Hiram College on Nov. 2 and scored four points. The NCAA granted an exemption to have the game moved up from Nov. 15 so that Hill could play before her condition worsened.
- Ben Estes