Fourteen-year-old sports fan Chad Orison was minding his own business, working out at a physical therapy clinic, when he turned around and was shocked to discover six very tall visitors.
The young men were grouped in a half-circle around Chad's wheelchair, smiling. Within a half-second, Chad's face registered confusion, surprise and overwhelming joy. The six visitors were members of the University of Utah basketball team, and they'd come to cheer up Chad.After a stunned moment while Chad took in the scene, Chad's mother, Shauna, took her son's arm and laughed, telling him about the surprise. Chad just nodded, never taking his eyes off the ball players.
Then Ute player Josh Grant stepped forward to hand Chad a box of souvenirs and tickets to the Utes' first game of the season, Nov. 24.
Chad and his family, including three brothers and a sister, all have been invited, and Chad will have a chance to join the players on the bench during the game, Grant said.
Chad, who hails from Farmington, has dystonia, a form of cerebral palsy that has confined him to a wheelchair since he was 8. He now has great trouble moving and speaking, but he was once very athletic and played soccer.
He used to "mow 'em down," he said later, his mother translating his garbled speech.
Despite his illness, a degenerative neuromuscular disease, Chad has stayed interested in sports.
For the last year or so, he's been working out regularly at North Davis Physical Therapy Center for strength and muscle control. One of his therapists, Paul Francom, said he'd been thinking of arranging a surprise for the boy, since lately he'd seemed a little discouraged.
Francom said he'd mentioned the idea to some basketball officials, and when University of Utah basketball Coach Rick Majerus got wind of it, he immediately volunteered his team members.
"(Majerus) has called and called until this was all set up. He's remembered it ever since" he heard about the idea, Francom said.
Francom said he's also hoping to work out a similar arrangement with the Utah Jazz.
Chad's mother said her son is an A student at Farmington Junior High and an avid sports fan. He "sit-skis" with the Park City Handicapped Ski Program and has often ridden horses and motorcycles behind a family member.
"He even water skis. He gets on a giant rubber doughnut and sails behind the boat with a brother or uncle, holding on for dear life," his mother said.
"Of all my kids, he's the most daredevilly. He loves going fast, and the scarier the better," she said.
"He enjoys moving, and because he's not ambulatory, the motorized things are his way of moving," she said.