Make-A-Wish builds Cash’s dream of Spurs basketball court
By Rachel Madison
To say Cash Samarron loves basketball is an understatement. Not only does the 12-year-old Liberty Hill resident play the game, but he can also tell you all about the different NBA players and their stats.
And Samarron’s favorite team? The San Antonio Spurs.
That’s why when we he was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas, it was no surprise to his family when he ultimately chose to have a 26-foot-by-28-foot half basketball court built in his backyard, complete with a row of courtside seats, lighting, netting and the Austin Spurs logo.
“Originally I wanted to go on a Disney cruise, but then my dad told me a Disney cruise would be over and done, so I changed my mind and chose a basketball court,” Samarron said. “A Disney cruise is something we could all enjoy [as a family] but it would be over. A basketball court is going to be there forever.”
Samarron was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma in January. He was misdiagnosed a few months earlier with a hamstring pull, after he fell at one of his basketball games and was unable to get up on his own.
“Four ER visits later and him unfortunately sitting on the bench that season, an orthopedist finally took an x-ray of his pelvis and saw something unusual that looked like a white mass,” said Lori Samarron, Cash’s mother. “He told us that wasn’t normal, so we went to North Austin Medical Center right away for an MRI. We found out within an hour that it was cancer and they transferred us to Dell Children’s Hospital. Four days later, we knew it was Ewing’s sarcoma and from then on life was a fast-moving train.”
Lori said she and her husband, Sean, gave Cash the option to keep his story private, but instead, he opted to share it with the Liberty Hill community.
“When I first got diagnosed, I was like, ‘Well, my life has changed,’” he said.
Support from the community came immediately, Lori said. The “Cash Can” initiative was born, which provides items like bracelets and t-shirts for purchase with proceeds going toward Cash’s medical bills. A You Caring account was also set up for people to donate to, and family, friends and neighbors have gone above and beyond to help out by bringing meals to the family or giving gifts to Cash’s younger siblings, 9-year-old Jett and 7-year-old Teddi, to help them cope with so many changes.
“Liberty Hill has been amazing,” Lori said. “We know without Liberty Hill’s support, and our friends, family and our faith, we wouldn’t be here. All these little things have helped to remind him he’s not alone. I can talk about it now without being a basket case. We are just so grateful.”
Since Cash’s diagnosis, he has almost spent more time in the hospital than he has at home. His tumor, which was located in the right pelvis area has spread across to the left side of his pelvis and metastasized. It’s also in his T3 vertebrae, skull and was in some small areas of his lungs.
“Cash went from walking and playing basketball to barely being able to walk,” Lori said. “He was in a transport wheelchair for four months because he could only walk very short distances. Then he graduated to crutches. In the meantime, he completed 14 rounds of chemotherapy, and right around the fourth month we noticed he could walk without crutches. The tumor had shrunk significantly, the cancer in the lungs completely disappeared and at the six-month mark the tumor was dead. Now that the tumor is dead, we’re fighting the cancer still present in his pelvis, neck and skull. What we do know is it’s showing decay, which means the chemo and radiation is working. Cash has also had a total of 40 rounds of radiation.”
Cash said most parts of his treatment aren’t fun, but he’s grateful when he gets to go home.
“I get to be with my family and play basketball outside and just have fun together,” he said.
Cash still has six more months of chemotherapy treatments left, but his treatments aren’t as often as they were in the beginning. He’s also currently being home schooled, but hopes to return to school in January.
Having a legitimate basketball court in his own backyard helps, too. Lori said knowing the court was being built gave him a little more energy to keep pushing through the last month of inpatient treatment.
“It was something to look forward to,” she said. “Once they poured the cement slab, every time we’d come home from treatment he was looking to see if anything else was done. It’s been good for our whole family.”
The court, which was financed and built by Sports Courts of Austin, took about a month to complete and was revealed to Cash on his 12th birthday on Oct. 23 by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Matt Bonner, recently retired San Antonio Spurs player, also surprised Cash with a visit during the reveal.
“Three weeks into his diagnosis, Cash got a visit from the Austin Spurs, which made us have a whole other appreciation for the Spurs,” Lori said. “They invited our whole family to the first game of the season this year, so Cash got to be there for the ring ceremony and they gave him a jersey. One of the players, Jeff Ledbetter, has really bonded with Cash and even invited him to a team barbecue last week.”
The Austin Spurs are a part of the NBA G League and are based in Cedar Park. Though the court itself wasn’t a surprise to Cash, the Austin Spurs logo on the court was.
“As far as we know, we are the only ones who have gotten permission to use their logo on a court,” Lori added.
The Samarrons have contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation before, but they never understood how the money affected the families on the other side of that coin.
“Now being on the other side, we know,” Lori said.
She added that since Cash’s diagnosis, their family has a changed perspective.
“For our family we have let a lot of the little things go,” she said. “It’s just not that important. We’re only promised today so we just have to focus on each day and not get too far ahead of ourselves and just enjoy life.”
Cash echoed similar sentiments, adding that those in his position just need to do two things: “Be positive and never give up.”
To follow along with Cash’s journey or to purchase Cash Can swag, search for Cash Can on Facebook.