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Vaught’s note: Kelly Melton is a 7-year-old youngster from Science Hill, an a Kentucky fan, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Vaughtsviews.com follower Ariel Calahan says he calls her”my bestie” and has been a family friend since Kelly was born and says “I consider him my little brother I never had.” She shares his story today and how so many UK athletes have taken time to be part of his life and what that has meant to him.
By ARIEL CALAHAN
I was there the day Kelly was diagnosed with Leukemia. Waiting with the family to find out what was going to happen next. We waited over four hours to be transported to UK Children’s Hospital in Lexington. That is an hour and a half away from where we live. Kelly had no clue what was going on at this point. All he knew was he was being taken to another hospital and as far as he knew he just had a bad ear ache, which is why he went to the doctor in the first place. They loaded him in the ambulance around 11 p.m.. We all went to tell him by and the words outta his mouth were, “I got Skittles in my socks!” His smile never left his face!
Once he got to UK Children’s Hospital. they started chemo immediately. He wasn’t allowed visitors at first because they were worried he would catch something which would make it harder for the chemo to take effect. He was in the hospital for 48 long days. Within those 48 days he really only saw his mom. His dad was there at the start, but he had to get back to work. His two brothers and sister hardly saw him. Maybe a couple times they got to go up and see him. I personally was there as much as possible! I did everything to make sure he never lost his smile, and those who know Kelly knows he always had a smile on his face!
Sometimes it would just be me who went up and sat in the bed playing Legos or a Wii game with Kelly. Other times I would take my friend up with me and we would both play games and just make him happy doing whatever he wanted! He didn’t really get out of bed much the first 48 days. He was tired and had no energy to do anything. One day his parents asked me if I would start a page for him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Kickinit4Kelly) and Twitter (@Kickinit4Kelly) so family and friends could know what was going on because they couldn’t call everyone and let them all know. To this day Kelly has 1,488 likes on Facebook and 3,243 followers on Twitter. People posting on his wall or tweeting him made for a great day when I would go up and let him see them. Of course, we read them to him because he is only in first grade and he is learning to read these bigger words in the hospital and at home right now!
Towards the end of the 48-day stay I sent a DM (direct message) on twitter to Martavius Neloms (former UK safety/CB) asking if he could come visit Kelly. He came back saying he would love to visit Kelly and asked if he could bring a few others with him. Christian Coleman (UK DT) had asked if he could come visit Kelly and of course we said yes. When the day came, Christian had brought Kelly a UK sock monkey and signed it for him. Mr. Socky hung on Kelly’s chemo bag.
Martavius, also known as Tay to Kelly, came and brought along Jonathan George (UK RB), Ashely Lowery (UK Safety), and Marcus Caffey (former UK CB). So there was five UK football players, Kelly, Kelly’s parents, my father and myself squished in a tiny hospital room, but we made it work and Kelly loved them the moment they walked in! Those boys were nothing but kind to Kelly and the rest of us. They all signed Kelly’s UK shirt he was wearing at the time! They stay for about two hours. The moment they left, Kelly said “that was awesome!”
Kelly got to go home for Thanksgiving, but got a temperature and had to go back the hospital. He was home for about three days. He was then in the hospital for 20-day stay. A lot of just little random things had happened throughout this stay, but the one that sticks out is when Martavius and Jonathan came back to spend another day with Kelly. Kelly had called me telling me that they came back to see him and I missed it! But don’t worry they still had a lot of fun!
Martavius also got Kelly a #1 UK football jersey and signed it for him for Christmas. Kelly was so excited when he gave it to him! Martavius was heading home for Christmas break after that visit and Kelly was so upset because he wouldn’t be able to see him until he got back. We went a long time waiting for Martavius to come back because he headed to training camps. But when he got back to Lexington, sure enough he came by to let Kelly know! Christian also got Kelly a Star Wars Lego set and a UK draw string back pack with his number on it for Christmas! Kelly loves Star Wars and Legos, so put those together and Christian was just right on track! Kelly takes the backpack to the hospital with all his Legos in it.
Martavius and Christian had come back to see Kelly and the others would check up on him via Twitter. Then one random day, it was late at night and normally Kelly doesn’t sleep to well, I got a message from Kelly’s mom. I wasn’t thinking of anything when she said, “Kelly is wide awake, will talk soon.” It was almost midnight when I received a text from a number which I didn’t know. But within the message was a picture of Kelly and Nerlens Noel (former UK basketball player). We thought it was amazing that he would come visit Kelly. After the visit Kelly would ask us all the time about his friend Nerlens.
We didn’t tell Kelly that he probably wouldn’t see him again. We all assumed it was a one-time thing. But boy were we wrong. About a month after the visit I got a message from the number which I didn’t know asking me how Kelly was. I told them and they came back with, “Can we visit him today?” So Kelly had yet another visit with his friend Nerlens. Kelly loved him visiting. They would just sit around and talk about everything and anything.
Kelly is a big football fan and a big UK fan so you put those together and he is a huge UK football fan. I thought it would be great if he could go to the Spring Game with me, which I had got tickets for right when they went on sale. We asked the doctors and they cleared it saying he could go! I had told Christian about it and he said I will get back with you. I had no clue what that meant. But he had talked to Coach Stoops and they got it to where Kelly could be on the sidelines during the game. Coach Stoops also came to visit Kelly in the hospital the week before the game! He gave him a UK football, which he signed for him. We did not tell Kelly anything until the day of and we were at the stadium. Kelly and the rest of us got a tour of the locker room and much more. Kelly got to run the practice field and go into the locker room before the game. He had a smile on his face the whole day! He also got the game ball at the end. Coach Stoops and all the players and all the other coaches made sure that day was all about Kelly and super special.
After the game we were posting the pictures on Facebook and Twitter when Landon Foster (UK Kicker/Punter) saw one of him and said he would love to visit Kelly in the hospital. I told him to come on over and he brought along Max Strong (UK Kicker) and Kelly Mason (UK long snapper). I had bought Kelly a new Lego set because Landon had told me how great a Lego builder he was! So all four of them sat in the hospital room building this Lego set! They were all so wild and crazy that day, playing random games and shooting each other with the missiles on the Lego set. It was just a great day in general. They ended up staying for four hours. Landon had given Kelly his cleats from last season and signed them for him. They had told me after that they really wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as they really did and that they would definitely be back soon to continue the war they started!
Two weeks ago while Kelly was in the hospital getting his chemo, I had got a message from Nerlens’ friend asking how Kelly was doing and if they could come visit again. Of course we made sure they got to visit before Kelly came home. Kelly and Nerlens compared their scars and Kelly was in shock how big Nerlens scar was! So he won the biggest scar.
Kelly got out of the hospital that night and went over to their house where they gave him a UK basketball signed by Nerlens. Most people saw an interview which Nerlens had done. Somehow we missed it, but wonderful followers on Twitter made sure we saw it. Nerlens talked about Kelly saying he “loved him like his little brother”. This is so true. I had met up with Nerlens’ friend to give him something when he mentioned a possibility of Kelly being able to go the Derby with Nerlens. At that moment we didn’t know if anything was official so we kept it between us. The next day he called me saying Nerlens really would like Kelly to go with him. We worked it out and found a way for Kelly to be able to go. Kelly spent the day with Nerlens and a couple of his friends. All five of them treated Kelly like he was a prince. They were all sweet and caring about him. Kelly was in heaven when he was told to go wake Nerlens up! Those boys took Kelly under their wings to make sure he had a great time!
Having this all these guys caring so much about Kelly and doing anything possible to make sure he is smiling and happy means everything to me and his family. I see a difference in Kelly when the guys are around. He is free to be himself, not that he isn’t all the time, but when you’re stuck in a hospital room and only seeing the same people over and over it gets crazy! So when they come to visit you can tell his levels boosted up.
He doesn’t see them as famous people like a lot of people do. He gets asked all the time how it feels to be around them and he will say “it’s like how I’m around you”. He calls them his best friends. When he finds out any of them are coming he gets the high pitch squirmy squeal. That’s how you know he is excited!
As for the guys who do come to visit him, Martavius had once said, “I never knew my best friend would be 7 years old”. Nerlens considers Kelly his little brother. The other guys are always saying how they love visiting Kelly after class because it gives them something to look forward too! You can tell when they are in the room with Kelly that Kelly means everything to them. They do everything and anything for him. These are relationships they will have the rest their lives.
Martavius and Christian have been with Kelly pretty much from the start. When either one would find out Kelly was having a rough day while in the hospital they would find a way to come see him. I remember texting Martavius one day saying Kelly was having a rough day. He wouldn’t talk to any of us. Martavius replied with, “I’m on my way.” He walked in and Kelly’s face lit up. Christian would come over after class just to drop by and say hey. Both these guys mean the world to Kelly and the family. We want to thank them for all they have for and continue to do for Kelly!
By LARRY VAUGHT
With the last few months that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has had, would it really be that surprising to see a horse he has 5 percent ownership in win Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Rick Pitino became a Hall of Famer and an NCAA champion on the same day. Now he is positioned to become a Kentucky Derby-winning owner if Goldencents wins on Saturday.
“Obviously, we’re rooting for Goldencents, but the Derby is something that you never know” how it will evolve, Pitino told reporters Wednesday. “If we don’t win it, I’d like to see someone like (trainer) Shug McGaughey win it. He’s never won the Derby, he’s a great trainer and a friend of mine. I’d like to see a Goldencents-Orb exacta, that would be awesome. It’s anybody’s ball game. It’s not like basketball, where you can look at a team and say they’ve got a little bit more firepower. You just don’t know in the Derby because you don’t know who’s going to get into racing trouble.”
So what do you think? Will Pitino’s horse win? Do you want Pitino’s horse to win? Or do you have another horse you hope and expect will win the Derby?
Would could have ever imagined that a time normally reserved for the Kentucky Derby to make all the headlines in the Bluegrass that University of Kentucky basketball would have one of its biggest offseason news days in years.
Not only did UKâ€™s annual series with Indiana and North Carolina apparently both get called off for next year, but Final Four Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis was added to the U.S. Olympic tryout roster. Plus, womenâ€™s coach Matthew Mitchell not only got the expected contract extension after what heâ€™s done the last two years, but heâ€™s now one of the highest paid womenâ€™s coaches in the country.
So what was the biggest story of the day? Hereâ€™s how I rate the four developments:
1. Davis joining the Olympic tryout roster.
To me, this is the biggest because it never happens. Davis could be on the national championship team as well as national player, freshman and defensive player of the year and then add an Olympic gold medal. Of course heâ€™ll also be the No. 1 pick in the June NBA draft. Thatâ€™s a season to remember for any player.
Davis let it be known when he announced he was leaving UK for the NBA along with four other starters off Uâ€ˆKâ€™s national title team that he had always dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal. Now he could very well get that chance because Team USA has a need for an inside player and Davis certainly has the shot-blocking ability to fulfill that need along with a youthful enthusiasm that could be attractive on a team filled with NBA stars.
As a high school senior Davis played forÂ USA Basketball’s Junior National Select Team that competed in the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit. Davis finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two block shots to help the USA to a 92-80 win over the World Select Team.
And think what it could do for coach John Calipariâ€™s recruiting if Davis adds that gold medal â€” and it is mentioned over and over that just a few months earlier he led Kentucky to a national championship. Calipariâ€™s recruiting certainly has been spectacular in his three plus seasons at UK, but Davis winning a gold medal would only make it better.
2. Indiana dropping the Wildcats rather than agree to annual neutral site games.
The two schools had disagreed over where future games should be played. Indiana want the games to stay on campus like they were since 2006 and from 1976-85. Kentucky preferred to have the games at neutral sites and apparently was even okay with the game being held each year in Indianapolis as long as the tickets were evenly split. From 1991-2005, the UK-Indiana games rotated between Louisvilleâ€™s Freedom Hall and the Hoosier/RCA Dome in Indianapolis with tickets evenly split.
Considering the tradition of both schools, both being ranked among the top five in early polls for next season and the friendship between Calipari and IUâ€ˆcoach Tom Crean, the assumption was that this somehow would get worked out. Then Indiana announced Thursday the series was off â€” at least for next year.
Fans are the losers. Home season ticket holders miss a marquee game every other year that a home-and-home series provided. But the neutral site games would have let more fans â€” and fans without season tickets â€” get to see the games.
Obviously, both programs will survive and flourish. But with the Hoosiers back in the national scene, itâ€™s a mistake by both schools to let this series end for any reasons.
3. Mitchell now has a contract through 2018-19 that guarantees him about $7.7 million in salary and endorsements â€” not counting incentives â€” to make him one of the nationâ€™s highest paid coaches.
I expected a contract extension.â€ˆI expected a raise. I just didnâ€™t expect numbers like this even though Mitchell is 114-56 in five years at UK and has taken Kentucky to two NCAAâ€ˆTournament regional finals in the last three years.
â€œWeâ€™ve only got two programs here that make money. So the rest of them are all working their way. I take as much pride in the ones that donâ€™t make money as the ones that do,â€ Barnhart said. â€œI have two daughters. I want women to have opportunities to play at a high level. In order to do that, we were willing to invest in that.â€
Seriously invest, especially considering UKâ€ˆhas not had the funds to invest in a recruiting room that the football program insists it desperately needs to try and keep pace with others in the SEC. But Barnhart certainly sent a nation-wide message about his support for UK womenâ€™s basketball and just how much success he expects in the years ahead.
4. North Carolina and Kentucky not playing next year.
This has been expected with the Southeastern Conference adding Texas A&M and Missouri and UKâ€ˆfacing at least two more conference games next year. Calipari also wanted to get it worked out where the Cats didnâ€™t play Louisville and North Carolina on the road in the same season.
The two have played the last 12 years â€” and probably will again after a one-year break. North Carolina senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Thursday there is â€œno intentâ€ to play next season.
At least, not in the immediate future even though Gallo would not say it was set in stone the two could not play next year â€” especially now that the Indiana-Kentucky game is off. But UKâ€ˆwill play Duke in Atlanta, will meet Maryland in Booklyn, will go to Louisville and will be on the road for the Big East/SEC Challenge. With the youngest team heâ€™s had at Kentucky, thatâ€™s more than enough difficult games for Calipari next season before conference play starts.