A Loyal Thunder Camper

Charlie takes a shot during a Youth Basketball Camp.
OKC Thunder Photos
Charlie Greene won’t be the only 6-year-old in Oklahoma who dresses as Rumble for Halloween this year. Nor will he be the only kid who can boast that Rumble has come to his birthday party, or that he’s seen Rumble at a Thunder Youth Basketball Camp (several, in fact).

But Charlie is one of the few children who has had a visit from Rumble at the hospital.

One of the most loyal Thunder Youth Basketball campers, Charlie started his first camp when he just turned five – a little after he and his family found out he had an issue with his leg. Though it would be months before doctors figured out that Charlie had a tumor on his femur, and even more months before he could have surgery to remove it, at least one thing stayed constant in the boy’s life: Thunder camp.

“Through all of that – all the diagnosing, and ruling out cancer, and all of the things that went along with what we thought was a very terrible diagnosis – … he kept wanting to come to Thunder camp,” said Michelle Greene, Charlie’s mom.

“So we let him,” she laughed.

Doctors advised against it, since they didn’t know what exactly might happen if Charlie fell or had trauma to his leg. Michelle and her family, though, not knowing what might happen after Charlie’s surgery – and whether he’d even still have two legs – felt differently.

“We thought, you know what, if he’s going to ultimately be in a wheelchair, we’re going to let him do it while he can,” she added.

By the time Charlie was diagnosed, he and his family had already built a strong relationship with Tyler Blackwell, the Thunder’s youth basketball director.

“We enjoy having [Charlie and his family] out here. They’re always a pleasure to be around,” Blackwell said. “I’m just very fortunate to be able to be around them.”

“Tyler was very, very considerate,” Michelle noted. “They [the coaches] watched him, and he had a pretty significant limp at the time.”

That limp may have slowed Charlie down, but it sure didn’t stop him.

Though Charlie’s tumor “kept him from doing all the things that all the other little boys did, he still came out here and had a great time and worked extremely hard,” said Blackwell.

If Charlie was having some difficulty, he didn’t let on.

“He adapted – he taught himself a way to protect that leg,” noted his mom. “He never said, ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘I don’t want to do it,’ or ‘I’m scared to do it.’ As an adult, it’s quite a lesson in perseverance.”

Eventually, though, the tumor caught up with the young boy and he had to give up Thunder camps for a while to have surgery.

In April of this year, Charlie’s doctors removed his tumor, along with about five of the eight inches of his left femur, reconstructing it with new bone and a metal plate. He had a special visit from his beloved Rumble while still in the hospital.

Three months in a wheelchair followed, and then three weeks with a walker. But once the walker was shed, Charlie practically ran back to Thunder camp in July.

“It’s been a little bright spot for him because it’s something that he loves and that he wants to do, and that he’s been able to do,” Michelle noted.

“He wouldn’t miss a camp now … And now his 4-year-old brother’s right behind him – torturing everybody, really,” she laughed.

The 4-year-old Harris came to his first Thunder camp over fall break, even though the basketball is just about bigger than he is. But he had a lot of work to try to keep up with Charlie.

“[Charlie]’s a great kid; he’s an inspiration to everybody,” said Blackwell. “I’m so happy to see him out there running and playing – and just being a kid.”

The months of worry and wondering and waiting may have taken a toll on Michelle and the rest of Charlie’s family – even Tyler and the other coaches. But if ever they needed to latch on to something that would ease their minds and melt their hearts, they needed to look no further than the kid at the center of this whole ordeal.

“Kids are resilient,” Michelle said. “We took it much harder than he did because he didn’t really understand – and they don’t see a limit for themselves. So it taught us as a family that whatever life hands you, you’ll be able to get through it.”

It also taught everyone, from the Greenes to the Thunder, that you can have more than one family.

“Michelle and Harris and Charlie and the whole family – they are a part of the Thunder Family,” said Blackwell.

And, just like any other family, that’s a bond that’s bound to last.

Thunder Youth Basketball Camps are presented by Cox Communications.