One of the more amazing and touching stories on this year's high school circuit was uncovered by TDD's own Steve Clark.
Perseverance. It's a word used a lot in many applications in life. Whether it is on the basketball court and persevering through a tough shooting night, or persevering through a massive hurricane ripping through your home, this word can mean a lot to somebody who sees the hope that there is an end to what they are enduring. For Tanner Smith, a Sophomore PG for the Georgia Stars 16U team, the word carries a much deeper meaning, and he wants to tell you why. "My father was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Stage IV in March of 1992, when I was three years old," says sophomore guard Tanner Smith. "He had to go through a bone marrow transplant in 1993 that helped him to become cancer free, but it also caused a very painful and debilitating disease called Graft vs. Host to take root in his life."
For those who don't know what Graft vs. Host Disease means, let Tanner tell you a little bit about it:
"It basically has stopped my dad from being able to work because he has so many problems with his feet and his muscles only operate at a fraction of what they are supposed to operate at. He also has problems with his tear ducts and saliva glands and other physical problems that are difficult to talk about."
You would figure that when you read about something so horrific and painful happening to a young man at such a tender age would cause him to just fold over and just try to make it through life. With Tanner however, he has a different story to tell, a story with a message of hope born from adversity, a basketball player and teenager who puts everything he has on the line everyday for God, simply because he and his family knows what hope is all about.
"After my father was diagnosed, I really felt like I received a calling from God to do something to help people with cancer. During that time, I thought of the idea of making these tote bags that I could deliver to children who were in cancer wings at a couple of the local hospitals here in Atlanta. We would put everything from CD Players and ball caps and everything else in between in these totes, and we just started delivering them to these kids who were so alone, having to basically live out their life inside a hospital."
Pretty humbling isn't it ? It makes you take a look at Tanner's life and think, man, how does he do all that and play basketball at such a high level ? Well, he wants to share with you how and why he does it.
"Whenever I go out and play, I'm always really calm and assured because I know that by playing for God, it gives people hope. To see my father in the stands for game after game when I know he's suffering, it brings so much joy to me because I know that I can use my basketball ability and this ministry that I have with Tanner's Tote's to bring hope to people's lives who need it, just like my family has seen the Lord give us so much hope during our lives as a family."
The crazy thing with all this isn't that Tanner is doing all this as a teenager in high school balancing his academic rigors, a girlfriend, playing high level AAU basketball and many, many other things. Oh no, the amazing thing is that Tanner doesn't want the spotlight. When asked if there was anything he wanted to express about his ministry, he responds:
"I really don't want Tanner's Tote's to be about me. I do this because I know how people feel who don't get to see their families for weeks and months on end because they are in intensive care receiving treatment. What I do with Tanner's Tote's is for those people, those people who need to know that there is somebody out there who loves them and who sees them for who they are, not the condition they have. If I could say anything about Tanner's Tote's, it'd be this, it's a non profit organization that needs your help. The more donations we receive, the more Tote's we can make, and the more children can start receiving these bags. Please consider supporting our ministry, just go to the website, check it out and just think about how many kids you could impact by a simple donation."
This article was supposed to be about Tanner's basketball ability. The fact that's he's a team leader for his high school team that has a ton of upperclassmen. The fact that he's so smooth with the ball and is a walking mismatch at the PG position due to assured and developing floor game and his physical stature. The fact that he is the glue on one of the best AAU 16U teams in the country. However, for Tanner, it's not about how many points he scored, or how many minutes he played in a game. No, for Tanner, it's about those kids and his dad seeing the hope that his life and his basketball brings.