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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 3 years ago

Orangewood Christian School basketball team brings joy to the Quantum House

The team helped provide a special day to families at the Quantum House in West Palm Beach with food and basketballs for the children.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

The Orangewood Christian School boys basketball team always leaves it all on the court. But on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the Rams showed some character elsewhere. 

Student-athletes with the Orangewood basketball squad recently lifted the spirits of families at the Quantum House — a facility in West Palm Beach that looks after families with children receiving treatment in Palm Beach County for serious medical conditions.

Realizing late last year they would be in Boca Raton for the Rock Holiday Classic basketball tournament the following month, the team and families raised about $1,000 and planned to surprise families at the Quantum House, bringing over Moe’s catering, donating basketballs for the children and spending time with the families living in the facility.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dror Paley, at the St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, focuses on helping children with different congenital deformities such as clubfoot or disorders such as diastrophic dwarfism. Many of the families at the Quantum House are receiving care from Paley, and that’s exactly who the Orangewood basketball team visited earlier this month.

Twelve players, two student managers and four coaches all paid a visit to the Quantum House.

“We played with the kids, talked with the parents, and a lot of my guys played PlayStation with the kids or dribbled the basketball with the kids,” head coach Matt Ruta said. “We spent the evening with them, interacting with them and loving on them a little bit. It was really cool.”

Ruta knows about the Quantum House and Dr. Paley firsthand — his two children both are patients. John, 5, and Maylie, 3, were born with TAR syndrome, a genetic disorder with which a child doesn’t have radial bones in their arms, their hands are turned in, their arms are shorter, they have a blood disorder, and they have reduced blood platelets.

“A lot of TAR patients have leg issues, knee issues, hip issues, heart issues, bowel issues, and some kids don’t even have arms, they just have hands coming straight out of their shoulder,” Ruta said. “It’s very rare — it’s only one in 300,000 children who have it. We’re lucky: (our children) are about as well off as a TAR kid can be.”

Giving back to families living at the Quantum House made perfect sense after seeing John and Maylie both go through three different surgeries to straighten their arms and hands to have more function, Ruta said.

“They’ve had some surgeries done with (Paley), and so that’s how we know about it,” Ruta said. “When we were going down south, we wanted to be able to give back. They’ve done a lot for our family.”

It was special to see the players interact with the families and the children without any hesitation during their visit to the Quantum House, Ruta said.

“Having strong character and being a good person is how you become successful,” senior Trent Rex said. “Helping other people should be everybody’s goal.”

“It was a nice experience for us, to see that our everyday struggles aren’t close to some people’s, and we should be grateful for what we have and what God has blessed us with,” senior Jabray Griffin said.

Ruta said the basketball program is about much more than wins and losses on the court.

“It’s the main part of what we do,” Ruta said. “As a coach, you always want it to be bigger than the sport you’re coaching. We’re all competitors, and we want to win. We’re trying to build a program here at Orangewood, and we’re really doing a good job. 

“But it’s got to be bigger than winning, because they’re not going to play basketball forever,” he said. “When they grow up they’re going to have a family, they’re going to have a job, they’re going to be part of a community, so it’s more important that they grow up to be good men and not just a good basketball player.”

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Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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