Michael Beasley, 6-foot-10 freshman forward for Kansas State University men’s basketball team, had no idea who 11-year-old Blade Winter was. He had no idea that Winter was having a bad day on Saturday January 19, and he had no idea that this future K-Stater has leukemia.
What he did know was that this super-fan was trying to sit close to the court to see the drum team that was performing during half time of the K-State women’s game versus Colorado. With the usher telling the little boy that he needed to find a seat, Beasley took
it upon himself to intervene.
The boy is with me, he said. The usher acknowledged Mr. Beasley and allowed Blade to sit with him. Beasley had no idea how happy he had just made this little boy.
Blade was diagnosed with leukemia when he was a mere 3 years old. A simple act of jovial toddler play resulted in the boy injuring his leg.
Thinking nothing of it at first, his parents, Connie — a graduate of Beloit (Kansas) High — and Trent Winter became concerned when they noticed the severe bruising. A trip to the doctor in Clay Center, Kansas told the Winters that this was no simple bruise. The doctors believed Blade to have leukemia. The Winters were instructed to take young Blade to Kansas City as soon as possible for further testing.
There the doctors confirmed that Blade had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They learned that his bone marrow at that time was 94 percent leukemic. Blade was put on a hefty regiment of chemotherapy for five years. During that time his leukemia went into remission. Blade was 8 years old when he finished chemotherapy.
Connie and Trent decided to return their son back to school. Most of his schooling had to be done in the hospital in Kansas City or at home with Connie who is a teacher.
“We really tried to keep him caught up on his schooling. It is very important to us,” said Connie.
Things were looking up for Blade who, although he had to be careful with what he did, was enjoying an otherwise normal childhood. But tragedy struck again and Blade found himself back in the hospital.
During the summer of 2005 an accident on the farm sent him to the hospital with a broken bone. While there, they learned that he was going through a relapse.
“The doctor came in crying when she told us he had relapsed.” said Connie.
It was the second relapse the doctor had to deal with that day.
Blade was again going back into chemotherapy. At this point the doctors began looking into the possibility of a bone marrow transplant. Looking to his family for a match, they found that his older brother Barrett was a close match but not perfect. Wanting a perfect match they opted for a more intense regiment of chemotherapy.
Life can be very difficult for the Winter family. Blade, who is often to sick or in too much pain to go anywhere, forces the family to split their duties.
“We do what we call divide and conquer,” said Connie.
If Barrett has an event that he needs to go to and Blade is to ill to attend, then one parent goes with Barrett and the other stays home. If Blade needs to be in the hospital then Barrett stays with family or friends so Trent and Connie both can be with Blade.
Connie said they are very fortunate to have such a supportive group of family and friends who are able and willing to help them.
With chemo done for now, Blade has to stay in remission for five years before the doctors will declare him cancer free. September of 2012 is the target date that they are shooting for.
Blade will be 16 years old then and has already made plans for what could be a very special birthday celebration for him.
“I want a Harley!” exclaimed Blade.
Blade said that if he remains in remission until 2012 then he wants a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle to celebrate. For now though, thoughts of motorcycles will have to remain just thoughts. With all the chemo he has received he must remain careful of everything he does.
“His bones are very brittle,” said Connie, “The doctors are working on ways to strengthen his bones.” It limits Blades ability to participate in team sports. Like baseball.
“I like playing baseball and watching football and basketball,” he said.
His desire to be involved doesn’t go unnoticed at his school, Clifton-Clyde Middle School. He has been made an “assistant coach” for the senior basketball program.
Connie said this is just an example of how good people have been to Blade.
With Connie having grown up in Beloit, many people here have gotten to know of Blade and his plight.
“Blade gets cards from people from Beloit all the time,” she said, “The support we get from everyone has just been amazing.”
Of her son, Connie said Blade has had to grow up very fast. He has to have adult like responsibility when it comes to taking his medicine and has been forced to deal with life situations that very few children ever have to deal with.
“Blade has lost several friends to leukemia, including three that were very close to him,” said his mother.
Blade met all these kids from the countless days he has spent in the hospital. A place were everyone knows who he is by his smile and the color of his clothes. Blade wears a lot of purple — K-State’s dominant color.
With both Connie and Trent having multiple degrees from K-State, Connie said, “Our kids have no choice but to bleed purple.”
Blade plans to attend K-State and major in agriculture. He intends to work the land like his father.
It was this love of K-State that brought the Winters to the women’s basketball game Saturday January 19. The day started poorly from Blade. His back was causing him intense pain and he was having to take pain medicine every four hours. Blade was determined to see the basketball game and opted not to stay home.
He spent the morning shopping with his mother in Manhattan before meeting his dad and brother at the game. As the first half of the game came to a close, Blade got permission from his parents to go down to the front row and sit with his cousin. This way he had a better view of the Marching Cobras, a drum corps from Kansas City.
Blade tried to sit in the seats with his cousin but there wasn’t much room. He chose instead to sit down in the aisle. It was that choice that created what he later proclaimed was the greatest day of his life.
The usher insisted that Blade move out of the aisle or go back to his seat. With no solution in sight and his back still causing him pain, Blade was resigning himself to return to his families seats when Michael Beasley intervened.
After Beasley declared that Blade was with him, Blade was in awe. The usher acquiesced to Beasley’s claim and allowed Blade to join him. Blade quickly moved to the seat offered to him by the freshman. Here he stayed throughout the remainder of the game.
Blade had just obtained a new K-State shirt and asked Beasley and the other K-State players that were sitting with Beasley, James Franklin, Dominique Sutton, and Jamar Samuels, to sign it for him. He also made sure to get their autographs for his brother.
“Blade always looks out for his brother,” said Connie.
Why Beasley chose that moment to reach out to a boy that he didn’t know is unknown.
“We don’t know what made he do it, we will probably never know,” said Connie.
What she does know is that this simple act of kindness by someone who both Blade and Connie insist will be a star in the NBA, helped Blade to forget about all his pain for a few short hours.
“You hear so much negativity about athletes. This really restores your faith in them.” said Connie.
After the game, Blade rode the thrill of the experience all the way home. He has taken the opportunity to show his family and friends his autographed shirt and now plans to put it away.
“I am going to frame it,” he said.