CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Queens University of Charlotte's Men's Lacrosse team welcomed a new member to the team on Thursday night, 12-year-old Keenan Calbreath. This new member is making as big an impact on the team, as they are on him.
Keenan Calbreath is not your average 12-year-old.
“Keenan has been sick since day one. He has had 36 surgeries,” explained his mother, Stephanie Calbreath.
Keenan was diagnosed with a GI disorder, Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE). Shortly after, he was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disorder, Dysautonomia and Peripheral Neuropathy. To help manage his medical conditions, Keenan uses a wheelchair part time, he also has a feeding tube to help with his GI disorder and he takes oral and IV medications daily.
“He has a lot of medical conditions that limit his day to day life. He has breathing issues, he has hip issues, knee issues, so he really can't participate like a regular child,” said Stephanie Calbreath.
“I can’t run, I can’t be tackled, I can’t be hit,” Keenan said.
Keenan is homeschooled now because he was not embraced by his fellow classmates. He also fell victim to bullying, not only from other children but from staff as well, his mother explained.
Stephanie Calbreath expressed how grateful she is that Queens took her son under their wing and how valuable having over 40 new teammates and friends in Keenan's life truly is.
“Some days he just doesn’t get out of the house."
She explained that when he is with the team, he doesn't want to leave.
“He has a feeding tube, he has, you know, special things that he needs, and these kids don’t even care. They take him as he is, they don’t question what he can or can’t do.”
Queens Men's Lacrosse coach Chris Kivlen believes that signing Keenan to the team is making a huge impact on the team as well.
“What an example for our guys, what a way for our guys to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Kivlen said. “Everything that he stands for in terms of facing every challenge and overcoming it, that’s incredible for our team to be around.”
Keenan was drafted to the team through a nonprofit organization called Team Impact, that helps improve the quality of life for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.
Although Keenan will not be able to play in games, he is an official member of the team. He will participate in practices, attend games, team meals, and team meetings. In return, Keenan's new teammates will become a part of his support team, to support him in all aspects of his life.