ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Gavin Porter was born at just 24 weeks, weighing one pound, eight ounces.
He had a stroke within a few hours of his birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Suddenly doctors were measuring his life hour-by-hour.
But slowly, hour-by-hour turned into day-by-day, then week-by-week.
“The nurses at Children’s are the loves of my life,” said Mia Malcolm, Gavin’s mom. “They saved him, and I think more important they kind of saved me. They took care of me on all of his super horrible, super hard days. They continue to take care of us.”
Gavin is now 10 years old, and a big basketball fan. As part of his continued care and therapies, his medical team recommended he watch sports that have a lot of action for his eyes to follow to strengthen the muscle.
Basketball quickly became his favorite, and through Team Impact, Gavin got to meet the Washington University men’s basketball team. He fell in love.
He started going to games and practices and the team completely embraced him.
“These guys are so nice to him, they’re so sweet. They cheer for him and make him feel like he’s 1,200 feet tall. Like he’s a giant,” Mia said. “For me as his mom, it’s been really special to see him so happy.”
That happiness is a two-way street. When Gavin shows up to see the team, he always brings a big smile with him.
“He’s so enthusiastic, he’s just excited to be around our guys and be included, and I think it really helps them,” said head coach Pat Juckem. “Hey, maybe it’s a tough practice, a tough game. I think it helps them keep perspective on what really matters. And most importantly, them giving back.”
In November, Gavin’s place with the team was made official by a draft day signing.
“For Gavin, I hope it represents full inclusion,” Juckem said.
The 10-year-old got his own locker, a playbook, and practice gear from the team. But his place with the team doesn’t end there.
“Any time he comes here, he’s going to be welcome in our locker room. A locker room for a team is a sacred place. They spend time, that’s where they bond. We want this to not only be symbolic, but practical,” Juckem said.
“When he’s here he can come in our locker room, hang out with our guys, and feel like he’s one of of them.”
His family, friends, and members of his care team from St. Louis Children's Hospital were there to root him on.
For Mia, it was wonderful to see Gavin just be able to enjoy the moment.
“I don’t know what his life is going to look like later. So I don’t know if he would ever have a moment like this. So for them to have this, and for him to be celebrated like this for just being a kid and just being cool is so amazing,” she said. “I don’t know if they know what this means to moms, to families, for them to do this for their kids.”