Fever, Pacers grant birthday wish to ailing youth

By Conrad Brunner | Sept. 1, 2009
Tommy Summerlin knew he was getting a fancy new basketball court in his backyard for his ninth birthday.

He didn’t know his personal dream team would attend the christening.

After a year-long battle with leukemia, Tommy received not only the special court but a visit from Pacers players Jeff Foster and Roy Hibbert, Fever players Tamika Catchings and Shay Murphy and Pacers mascot Boomer for a special party Tuesday afternoon.

The event was organized by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and sponsored by Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

“This is awesome,” said Tommy’s mother Linda. “The court itself is more than he dreamed of. This will be something he’ll always remember.

“Today is a day to forget about everything else that’s been going on, to celebrate and have some fun.”

A third-grader at Cedar Elementary, Tommy was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia on Sept. 12, 2008. The disease is currently being kept in check by medication but he may eventually require a bone-marrow transplant.

Tommy’s surprise began after school when he was greeted by a stretch Hummer limousine, rather than the bus. When the vehicle pulled up to the driveway and Tommy emerged, Foster, Hibbert, Catchings, Murphy and Boomer – as well as a large contingent of family and friends – were there to greet him.

Said Linda: “He was speechless.”

A shy but energetic youth, Tommy grabbed a basketball and headed straight for the court, where he made a jump shot, then dunked (with a lift from the 7-2 Hibbert). Foster then organized a variety of games including a six-on-six scrimmage and a session of knockout.

Guess who won?

After the games, the players presented Tommy with presents including autographed jerseys and basketballs.

What did Tommy think?

“It was cool,” he said.

The court, constructed of a special composite called SnapSports, has a 10-foot goal at one end and an 8-footer at the other. The equipment and labor was donated by several local businesses including Reynolds Body Shop, Shelley and Sands, Beaver Materials and Wells Gym Equipment. The court eventually will have lights so Tommy can play into the night.

“I was just talking to my brother-in-law about what do we do next year?” said Tommy’s dad, Tom. “My present is just for him to be here.”