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Patient designs shoes for Coaches vs. Cancer game

Feb. 9, 2023, 10:18 AM

Cancer patient Jayden Bailey, left, designed the shoes worn by Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse during the recent Coaches vs. Cancer “Suits and Sneakers” basketball game.
Cancer patient Jayden Bailey, left, designed the shoes worn by Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse during the recent Coaches vs. Cancer “Suits and Sneakers” basketball game. (courtesy VU Athletics)

by Christina Echegaray

Since being diagnosed with cancer, Jayden Bailey, 14, has been sidelined from playing basketball, the sport he loves most. He also loves being able to don his collection of basketball sneakers while on the court.

Jayden, from Lebanon, Tennessee, was diagnosed June 26, 2022, with osteosarcoma, a cancer that originates in the bone forming cells, which was discovered in his left shoulder. He had a portion of his bone removed from his shoulder and upper arm for a tumor resection. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“We really didn’t expect at all that it was cancer,” Jayden said. “I was complaining about my shoulder for a while, but we just took it as me being sore because I was playing a lot with going to practices and games.”

“Looking back, his shoulder looks really big and swollen in pictures,” added Jayden’s mom, London Elie. “We just thought he had gotten a lot of muscle and was growing.”

Right now, Jayden is on his fifth cycle (out of six) of treatment. When asked what motivates him, he replied: “Getting back to basketball.”

Recently, Jayden “got back to basketball” in a way he never imagined, and he got to incorporate his love for basketball sneakers. He got to design a special pair of Nike Air Max shoes for Jerry Stackhouse, coach of the Vanderbilt University men’s basketball team, to wear during the Jan. 24 Coaches vs. Cancer “Suits and Sneakers” basketball game. VU took on the Kentucky Wildcats, and Jayden watched as a special guest.

Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide, weeklong fundraising initiative of the American Cancer Society. The “Suits and Sneakers” games support and raise awareness of childhood cancer research and programs.

With his mom’s help, Jayden chose to color a yellow ribbon across a portion of the shoes surrounded by black. The yellow ribbon represents childhood cancer, and the colors coincidently match VU’s signature black and gold. They also inscribed the words “Jayden’s Journey” and “Childhood Cancer” on each shoe.

This was the second year that VU men’s basketball teamed up with Monroe Carell to have a patient design a pair of sneakers for the “Suits and Sneakers” game.

“As a program, we are touched to help bring continued awareness to the fight against cancer through the “Suits and Sneakers” initiative. We hope our efforts inspire those fighting this awful disease,” said Stackhouse said.

“We are inspired by Jayden and his family’s strength and fighting spirit. The work our Vanderbilt community teammates at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Monroe Carell are doing against cancer is truly amazing. Our Commodore program is always ready and honored to help support Jayden and all those fighting. We are all in this fight together.”

Jayden attended the VU basketball game with his mom, his grandfather, Lester Elie, and his 2-year-old sister, Amira Jade. They sat right behind the VU basketball team.

“It was just so cool being there,” Jayden said, noting it was his first time at an in-person college or pro basketball game. “It was a very nice experience,” he said.

“He doesn’t get excited about a lot of things, so it was really nice to see him so happy,” London Elie said about her son attending the game.

Jayden joked he would only watch games in person from now on instead of TV — if that was an option. He frequently watches basketball on TV, often tuning in to the Memphis Grizzlies’ games to watch his favorite NBA player, Ja Morant.

Jayden, who is about 6 feet tall, hopes to play college basketball one day, following in his family’s footsteps.

His grandfather, Lester, known as “Pa Pa” and who stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, played college basketball for Northwestern State. Jayden’s mom played at center for Trevecca University and then Cumberland University.

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