Midlands athletes jump in to help family Friday night (plus video)

05/30/2014 12:06 AM

05/30/2014 12:14 AM

The Midlands basketball community will throw its support behind a Lexington family at the first Capital City All-Star Basketball game on Friday at Ridge View High that will benefit 4-year-old Eliza O’Neill.

Eliza’s family is inching closer to its fundraising goal of $1 million, the cost to fund a clinical trial that would help Eliza fight Sanfilippo Syndrome, a rare disorder that threatens to take her life.

After a video of Eliza’s story went viral earlier this year, the O’Neills’ fundraising campaign reached the $750,000 mark, receiving donations from such prominent figures as former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy.

Ridge View boys basketball coach John Combs spearheaded the effort to put together the charity boys all-star game after hearing Eliza’s story.

“The determination of the O’Neill family and that of Eliza is amazingly inspiring. After seeing the efforts of the O’Neill family and that of people who have never even meet Eliza, there should have never been any doubt they would get this done,” said Combs, who is a colleague of Eliza’s grandmother, Ellyn Parsons. “I’m blessed and fortunate to have two healthy daughters, but whatever we can do to help Eliza, we are willing to do it.”

Combs’ idea for his school to sponsor an all-star game – previously prohibited by S.C. High School League rules – was met with enthusiasm all around.

“It was an easy sell for the high school coaches; not one single person said no, everyone wanted to do it,” Combs said. “All the coaches were on board with it.”

Even with less than three months to organize the event, local coaches jumped at the opportunity to support a child in need.

The all-star coaches include Daryl Jarvis, coach of Class A champion C.A. Johnson, Dreher’s Jeff DiBattisto and Spring Valley’s Perry Dozier. The rosters feature many of the area’s best boys high school players, including Johnson’s William Tobe and Robert Riley on the West squad and Diquan Day Grant of Class 3A champion A.C. Flora on the East team.

Several players wanted to participate but were unable because of commencement ceremonies. The officials are donating their services, and Bojangles has donated gift cards for the first 500 attendees.

Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419

WATCH VIDEO that started it all

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