Young Cancer Patient Wins Over Heart of Michigan State Player During March Madness

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By Gillian Mohney | ABC News

(ABC)An 8-year-old girl with cancer has become the unofficial cheerleader for Michigan State University basketball player Adreian Payne.

Lacey Holsworth befriended the star athlete after he visited her while she was in the hospital two years ago.

“They’re kind of like friends, brother or sister … They’re very comfortable around each other and play games and or color,” said Lacey’s father, Matt Holsworth. “They have a bond that’s special.”

Lacey has neruoblastoma, a cancer that develops in immature nerve cells throughout the body. Since chemotherapy has left her without hair, she wears a long blonde wig to games to cheer on her favorite player.

Lacey has even taken to calling Payne her big brother.

Lacey’s father said Payne has become a part of the family and will often stop by just to chat or even play video games with Lacey’s three brothers.

While Lacey has a clear favorite to win March Madness, her father said she’s not usually bothered if they lose. She’s just worried about her friend Payne. She’s even brought Payne brownies after a loss.

“It’s a blessing for our hearts and to see them encourage each other,” said Holsworth. “I think they both feed off each other and give each other straight [advice], they both just want to help each other.”

Payne even had Lacey come on the court during the senior ceremony where he held her up to cut down the basketball net.

Lacey and Payne’s story has even inspired MSU fans to reach out and help. Jeff Martin saw a story about the pair in the Detroit Free Press and started an online fundraising page to help the family after hearing about her story.

The page has reached just over $30,000 of its $50,000 goal with 72 days left. Lacey is also scheduled to be a part of a new study at the University of Michigan that will use antibodies to try and treat her cancer. Lacey’s cancer is advanced and at one point left her paralyzed after a tumor wrapped around her spine.

Although chemotherapy helped to shrink those tumors, others have appeared according to the Associated Press.

Since this is Payne’s senior year, he’s likely to move away from Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Mich., and will possibly be drafted by the NBA. However, Holsworth said he expects Payne and Lacey will stay in touch.

“She’ll say she has four brothers,” said Holsworth, of Lacey. “We’re very grateful to be a part of that and happy to be a part of Adreian’s life.”

Michigan State University is scheduled to play the University of Virginia on Friday night.

Copyright 2014 by ABC News. All rights reserved.

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