XENIA —A typical day in Trevin Gray’s life is one of pain, uncertainty and plenty of doctor visits. But as a member of the University of Dayton men’s basketball team, Gray has been all smiles for several months now.
Through a new organization called TEAM Impact, Gray, a 14-year-old student at Warner Middle School who has rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, was adopted as an honorary team member of the UD men’s basketball team. He attended many of the team’s weekly practices, saw most of the team’s regular season games and even followed the Flyers on their magical trip into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament.
“It’s been amazing. Wonderful. It’s been like living a dream, because I’ve been a Flyer fan my whole life,” Gray said from his home earlier this week.
He and his dad are in North Texas this weekend to watch the NCAA Final Four tournament games. They won the tickets through a national drawing TEAM Impact held for its affiliates.
“I told coach (Archie) Miller: ‘I’ve won my ticket to The Big Dance, now you have to win yours!’ ” he said with a chuckle.
And Dayton nearly did just that.
During a mid-January slump, Trevin did his part to shake things up by presenting UD’s Assistant to Basketball Operations Eric Farrell with a tie that had the University of Dayton colors of red and blue. The team loosened up and began to win again.
Flyer player Devon Scott said the team wanted to make sure that Trevin knew he was a part of their squad.
“We saw Trevin two-to-three times a week, at games and practices,” he said. “He is one of us and that’s how we treat him. I gave him a practice shirt and told him ‘You’re part of this team. You need to look like it.’ He got a big kick out of that.
“We understand some of what he goes through when people meet him for the first time. When they meet him, they see his chair as much as they see him. When they see us, they see a basketball player, or someone who is much bigger than them. We accepted Trevin as Trevin, because we know what it feels like when people stare. They don’t get that we’re all just like each other.”
After hanging out with the team on a road trip in Pittsburgh for a game against Duquesne University, where he stayed in the team hotel and played Madden NFL Football against the players (Trevin says Kendall Pollard is the best on the Flyers), the team said that if they got into the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game, he should come join them in Brooklyn, N.Y. for the game.
“They lost the game, but had they won, we would have jumped in the van and we would have been out there with the team that Saturday,” said Darla Gray, Trevin’s mom. “So, when the team was selected to play in the NCAA tournament, they already knew we could drive to Brooklyn. Buffalo is a little closer, so they asked us to come to Buffalo.”
Trevin and his mom were in Buffalo, N.Y. for the Flyers’ wins over Ohio State and Syracuse. They then headed back home, and attended UD’s practice that following Tuesday before heading to Memphis for the Flyers’ games with Stanford and the no. 1-ranked and top-seeded Florida Gators.
“My favorite part has been just getting to meet all of the players,” Trevin said. “My dad has been going to Flyers games for years, and he’d take me to the games. I guess I’ve been a Flyer fan ever since then.”
His dad, Kyle Gray, is a former coach and teacher at Xenia High School. He left his position with the school in order to spend more time with Trevin.
Gray has left a mark on UD coach Archie Miller, too.
“From the very start when Trevin’s story came to us, it was clear that we could both help one another,” said Miller. “He’s a terrific kid who’s had to battle early on in his life with some real adversity, adversity that isn’t gone in 24 hours. With Trevin’s perspective on things and his positive vibe when he’s around, I’m not sure there is a better person around that could represent what our program is about than Trevin.”
Because of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Trevin is able to attend classes at Warner for half a day. The rest of the time is spent following his doctors’ strict guidelines for resting and exercising, as part of a daily physical therapy regiment.
The Flyers brought an exercise bike courtside, so that Gray could do his own workout during UD’s practices. Trevin is restricted from lifting anything heavier than 5 pounds. According to his mom, Trevin’s body is so fragile that he’s dislocated his ankles, knees, knee cap, elbows and his shoulders just from walking. He often needs use of an electric wheelchair to help him get around. In class, Trevin uses an iPad to snap photos of his class chalkboard notes, because the use of a pen could damage his fingers.
But all that is forgotten when he’s courtside with his beloved Flyers.
“It has been an amazing experience for Trevin, because it allows him to be a kid, which allows me to just feel some relief with his condition,” Darla Gray said. “We don’t know for sure whether or not Trevin will get to do this with the team next year, but we’re hoping so.”
Trevin surely hopes so.
“Coach Miller has already told me to come to practice with him during the off-season. You can bet that I’ll be there!” he said. “Right now, I’m just ready for Winter to be over. I want to start enjoying some warmth for a change.”
According to TEAM Impact, the organization formed in 2011 to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of teams. TEAM Impact children are drafted on to local college athletic teams, and become official members of the team from “Draft Day” through to graduation.