I love basketball. Many of my fondest memories happened playing on a basketball court, driveway, watching on a living room floor, in the stands, coaching or photographing. Basketball runs deep through my life. I look back on growing up and playing basketball in the driveway with my dad or talking about what I should have done better after losing in the state championship my senior year of high school. Basketball has brought me many friends and maybe made me lose a few. There is something so simple but so complicated about the game of basketball. I’ve spent my life trying to get better and falling deeper in love with the game of basketball.
I keep my favorite team private. To me it became a topic of confrontation. It was like telling people I voted for that guy, thinks the world is flat or thinks the Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars movie. Duke has been my favorite team for as long as I can remember. I don’t hate Christian Latner, J.J. Redick was my favorite, Coach K is one of the greatest (behind John Wooden) and Cameron Indoor is where dreams come true. Even though I have been a fan for so long I never had the opportunity to visit Duke for a game.
When the opportunity rose to be part of a dream come true with Davis Johnson at Duke University I was ecstatic. There is something so special about Davis. He could have been a Chapel Hill fan and I would have stilled loved being part of the dream, but reluctantly. Davis is a 9 year old with Type 1 diabetes. Before I met Davis I was sent a video that Davis had recorded about his feelings about his diabetes. After watching the short video I knew Davis would have just as big of an impact on my life as we did on his.
We surprised Davis at his school on the morning of March 1st. I can only imagine the thoughts that raced through his head when a photographer, videographer, his parents and a few Dream On 3 people. He had told his mom a few days before that he did not think we would be able to get tickets to a Duke game. He was more than happy with the Duke hat that was given to him on being told his Duke dream would be coming true. That was one of my first impressions of Davis.
The photo above is when he saw the limousine that he would be riding in to start his dream. Often I wish I could remember moments like this in my life and to know the feeling. There is no shortage of excitement and anticipation in the eyes of a child experiencing something for the very first time.
I usually offer to sit in the very back of the van because it is the least desirable seat and I don’t mind sitting back there. Davis decided to sit with me. We had the best time talking about Duke basketball, what games I had on my phone, why I always wear a hat and if we were going to stop to get donuts. I treasure moments like this because it is when I can add something above the dream experience. It is my goal to make the dream kid feel special, show him I care, make him laugh and begin a life long friendship. Those things happened in the back of the van playing Dashy Crashy on my phone with a 9 year old.
The Dream was sponsored by Martin Marietta. Martin Marietta a leading supplier of aggregates and heavy building materials. An aggregate is a rock if you wanted to know.
We had the privilege to go to one of their many quarries in North Carolina. The quarry we went to opened in 1961 and still has 85 more years of digging. Quarries offer a lot to a little boy. First thing is that it is big, deep and loud. Second there are really big trucks. Third there are explosions occasionally. Davis was just as impressed as the rest of us. The two of us could have sat there for hours and imagined things to do, throw or if we could fill the quarry with water.
Cameron Indoor Stadium sits about 9300 people. In 1940 when it opened it was one of the biggest but now it is one of the smallest. There is something so special about Cameron. To see the student section and to hear if the walls could talk. I asked Davis after the game what it was like to have floor seats and he told me he will never sit anywhere else. He has great plans in the future. You don’t have to be a fan of Duke to respect the history, talent and impact Duke has had on the game of basketball. Duke Basketball gave an average sized guy like me the dream that one day I could to be a college superstar. It didn’t happen for me but Davis will definitely be a guy to look out for in the future.
Every dream the planning team does there very best to plan and make things happen. You do your very best to plan lots of exciting activities but sometimes the dream has a mind of its own. We planned to go to a press conference after the game but that was going to be the extent of the interaction with the team or Coach K. Right after the game we waiting to be escorted to the press conference by Coach K’s daughter Debbie who is the Assistant Director of Athletics/Special Events. About 10 minutes after the game ended we were escorted by Debbie back to a special room where the team waits before they enter Cameron to play. While Debbie explained what the room was her father entered. There were so many questions I had, things I wanted to tell him, pictures I wanted to take with him and time I wanted to spend soaking in his basketball knowledge. That isn’t why I am there but instead I am a fly on the wall making dreams come true. To be part of something like this is an honor. To meet athletes and coaches is great but pales in comparison to the memories I have with the dream kids. There is a boost of energy they give me.
When Davis was asked what is top 3 favorite things were from the dream he said: The game, meeting coach and Grant. Before you get all choked up he replaced me a minute later with the time at the quarry. I love what I do, the people I work with and the wonderful people I get to meet alone the way. It is my goal to make the dream just a little bit better and maybe take a couple of pictures.
My dream is to take a photo that helps you remember, love, laugh, cry and heal. I’ll never know what a photo means to you or why. To be part of your life is an honor that I will never take lightly. Thank you for letting me be part of your life even if it is from the other side of a camera.