Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, Marshall University Athletics and United Bank join together for United for Hoops program for pediatric patients

Thursday, August 24, 2023

(L-R) Front row: Junior Captains Ethan Simpson, Kalia Black, Michael Welker, Mason Stephens, Jessica Barebo (Not pictured: Ezra Nida): Back row: Sara Schultz-Britt, Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation; Christian Spears, Marshall University Athletics Director, Marshall University Cheerleaders, Marco the Bison, Andrew Dawson, United Bank Market President; and Melanie Akers, director of Hoops Family Children’s Hospital.

For the second year, Marshall University (MU) Athletics and United Bank have joined to support Hoops Family Children’s Hospital (HFCH) through the United for Hoops program. This partnership provides local pediatric patients the opportunity to serve as “Junior Captains” during each home game of the 2023 football season.

The 2023 Junior Captains are:

  • Kalia Black, a 10-year-old patient with neurofibromatosis and scoliosis at both HFCH and Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center (ECCC), will serve as Junior Captain during the Sept. 2 home game versus University of Albany. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Kalia is a very bright and kind young lady who loves hanging with friends and making Tik-Tok videos.
  • Ethan Simpson, a 13-year-old patient with apraxia/ADHA at HFCH, will serve as the Junior Captain during the Sept. 23 home game versus Virginia Tech. Ethan is also a huge fan of Marshall basketball. Ethan knows his game stats and loves to share this information when receiving treatment at the Pediatric Outpatient Center.
  • Mason Stephens, a 7-year-old patient with Crohn’s Disease at the Infusion Center at ECCC, will serve as Junior Captain during the Sept. 30 home game versus Old Dominion University. Mason loves gaming, especially during his infusion treatments he receives every eight weeks. Thanks to the treatment, his Crohn’s is well managed.
  • Ezra Nida, a 13-year-old patient with leukemia at both HFCH and ECCC, will serve as the Junior Captain for the Oct. 19 home game versus James Madison University. Born with Down Syndrome, Ezra is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) graduate and a cancer survivor. He loves swimming and playing with his German Shepard, Chief. Ezra is also active in his Boy Scouts troop and participates in the Special Olympics in the long jump and 50 meter dash.
  • Jessica Barebo, a 10-year-old patient with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) at both HFCH and ECCC, will serve as Junior Captain during the Nov. 11 game versus Georgia Southern. Jessica was a preemie and spent three weeks in the NICU at HFCH. She loves watching sports and participates in the Special Olympics for the 50 meter dash and softball toss. Despite her brain injury, Jessica has made great gains in therapy developing her visual and motor skills.
  • Michael Welker, an 11-year-old patient with autism at HFCH, will serve as the Junior Captain during the Nov. 25 game versus Arkansas State University. Michael was adopted by his foster parents at the age of five. When he was placed with his family, he was non-verbal, autistic and only ate gold fish crackers. He has worked continuously to develop his oral communication and social delays. He is a quiet, but very sweet boy who enjoys swimming, Minecraft and watching YouTube.

Each junior captain will be a guest of honor during a scheduled MU football practice where they will receive a tour and have an opportunity to meet the team before the game. Throughout the 2023 football season, United Bank has pledged to donate $5 for every point that MU scores, benefitting the patients of HFCH.

To learn more, visit www.mountainhealthfoundations.org/unitedforhoops.