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Hibbert Touched by Young Cancer Victim, Teams Up with Area 55 Members to Help Save Lives

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

November 28, 2013

Roy Hibbert never was able to meet Lee Eddins, a young Pacers fan in Sacramento, Calif., but he’s thought of everyday by the Pacers’ center.

Two summers ago, Eddins was diagnosed with leukemia and one of his wishes was to meet Hibbert and boxer Floyd Mayweather, who was in prison at the time. Hibbert didn’t know much about the 12-year-old, just that he was a Pacers fan, took great interest in Big Dog, and he was dealing with health issues that nobody that young should have to deal with.

15 months ago, Hibbert was at his car at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, about to drive to the airport to fly all the way to California to see Eddins when he got word that he had passed away.

That, however, didn’t deter Hibbert from going. He met Lee’s family, and did the best he could to help them cope with the loss. That image still hasn’t left Hibbert’s mind.

In September, he teamed up with the Indiana Blood Center and Be The Match to host a bone marrow drive at Castleton Square Mall, where folks had their cheeks swabbed to see if they could help save a life.

The majority of Hibbert’s Area 55 members showed up to support the event and be swabbed, including 22-year-old Colin Lott (pictured right). Colin Lott

“I just wanted to go and support Roy, helping him make a difference,” he said. “What’s important to him and is really important to all of us in Area 55.”

What Lott didn’t know is that he’d be a match months later and be given a unique opportunity. This past Monday, he checked into the hospital around 8 a.m. to give away stem cells for the sake of another person. This wasn’t the first time Lott had been declared a match. He was a close match for another patient, until an even closer match came along. “Two months after I was released, they called me again to say I’m a match for another patient,” said Lott. “That’s kind of unheard of that there’s one person that’s a match for a patient, but for one person to be a match for two doesn’t really happen that often.”

Lott once again went through the process of getting tubes of blood drawn. He passed a physical exam and then took two shots per day for four days to increase the number of stem cells leading up to his donation, which was taken out of his arms.

“I never thought I’d be in this position,” he said. “God has blessed me with this opportunity and also if it wasn’t for Roy doing the drive at the mall, I would’ve never signed up. It really is a credit for him for wanting to make a difference in people’s lives after Lee died. It really means a lot to me that I’m able to potentially save someone’s life. That’s something that doesn’t really happen quite often because there are a lot of patients that die because they never get a donor.”

Lott said the procedure went well and that he is doing fine. Being the dedicated fan that he is, Lott – a four-year member of Area 55 – attended Monday’s Pacers game less than 12 hours removed from donating his stem cells.

Hibbert discovered what Lott was doing at their first Area 55 meeting of the season. He was proud to see that his bone marrow drive and an Area 55 member are helping to save lives, all with the thought of little Lee Eddins in mind.

When Lee’s mother, Lanette Robinson-Baker, was informed about Lott’s gesture through Hibbert’s drive, she was in tears.

“To see Roy continuing on in this fight means that he has recognized his purpose beyond basketball,” she wrote to Pacers.com in an email. “It means that somehow my [son] Lee's life, even through his death, meant something bigger to Roy. Most athletes don't use the platform that they have to enlighten, especially in the African-American community where there is such an educational need for bone marrow donation. Roy doesn't even live here in Sacramento, yet his presence and his fight is well known. Roy, myself and my husband were just strangers and don't get a chance to talk much, but to know that he still holds Lee near and dear to his heart, I believe is evident and a manifestation of a profound change for him. It means the world to us.”

With the help of Hibbert, members of Area 55 and the community, Be The Match Indiana was No. 1 in the nation for recruitment last year.

“It was something that I never thought I’d attached my name to but it was something that happened and I felt very strongly about it,” Hibbert said. “It’s something that I care about.”

So what was Lee like? He was a jokester, a beat-box artist, and a kid that would wear basketball shorts all 12 months, despite a wintery chill. He never complained about his condition or asked why me? Instead, he was very conscientious of others.

“Lee's other wish was to feed the homeless,” Robinson-Baker continued. “Not travel, not have some big hoorah. Jahmal Miller as well as the Make-A-Wish foundation here is Sacramento, not only saw to it that Roy and Lee connected, they saw to it that his wish to feed the less fortunate was also done.

“His football team also known as the Pacers, have honored his memory by giving an award each year to a football player that exhibited what Lee did: God, family, friends, respect, and community. I want Lee to be remembered as a very prayerful child who brought his once estranged family together in another dying wish just to have us all around at a barbeque even if he couldn't eat. I want Lee to be remembered as that kid who loved his family and brought plenty of Joy to us, who ALWAYS prayed and was absolutely fearless through his journey.

“He was well beyond his years. He thought more of his nurses than himself through all that he went through. If someone offered him money, he would respectfully decline and say, ‘No, I don't need anything, you keep it.’ Or when leaving the dinner table, ‘Goodnight and enjoy your meal.’

“He was a football and basketball aficionado. He was THAT kid who would analyze a player to no end. Good, bad or indifferent. Had he been here, he would tell Roy how to "up his game" or be his mini-agent.”

Looking on from above, Lee no doubt is watching what Hibbert and the Pacers are doing on the court, off to a league-best 14-1 start, and humbled that Hibbert, whom he never met, cares that much for him.

“I keep his picture in my wallet,” Hibbert said. “He’s always by my side.”

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