'Hoos rally around young fan

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Tennis is a big priority for Ally Houston.

"All of my kids play because I love it so they grew up with a tennis racket in hand whether they liked it or not,” she said.

She's been a chair umpire for the UVA tennis teams for two years. Lately, she's been bringing her son along.

"I'm like his you know, right-hand woman, he knows I love tennis and he felt, I think it was important, he knows it's important to me. He wanted to be here. He loves sports,” she said.

Her son, Ely, is 10 years old.

Last year, his mom noticed something a little different about him.

"It was kind of odd because he's usually a really healthy kid and he started getting these headaches, it was more like neck pain, he says, my neck hurts a lot,” she said.

But the problem wasn't in his neck. It was in his brain.

"They did a CT scan, simple as that and there it was. Just a golf-ball-sized tumor,” she said.

Ely had the tumor removed, and has been going through radiation ever since.

"This is the toughest thing I've had to deal with, it's your son, it’s tough. I tell you what, what keeps us going is his attitude. Ely is a tough kid and he wears a smile on his face,” Ely’s father, Mark Houston said.

“When we found out the problems he was having, the community sort of came together around him,” said Lynda Harrill, a volunteer for the Virginia men’s tennis team.

Lynda Harrill has volunteered with the Virginia men’s tennis team for the past 14 seasons. She got them in touch with Virginia men’s tennis head coach, Brian Boland.

“I said we're going to bring him out to a match, maybe you can introduce him. He said introduce him? I'll make him an honorary captain for the day. I said OK we've got it,” Harrill said.

Boland made good on his promise. Ely became the honorary captain for the match against Notre Dame on March 25, 2016.

"It was totally cool I can't tell you, I don't want to cry thinking about it, when I saw Brian Boland walking across the court holding Ely's hands taking him over, it was unbelievable,” Harrill said.

"Someone like Ely who has been through so much, that's a real champion. He's fought the biggest battles, life and death. So, if we could bring a little bit of happiness to his life and he could be part of us for a day he gives us a ton of strength he's a total winner and he's fighting the real battles in life,” Boland said.

"It was a big pleasure for us to get to meet Ely. It allows us to really relax and know that we're out here playing in 80 degree weather in beautiful Charlottesville so our lives are pretty good. To see what Ely has gone through and to see how he's been able to keep a positive attitude through it all, I think it kind of gives us all the right perspective,” said Luca Corinteli, a junior Virginia tennis player.

"To be honest, he looks up to us, but we look up to him a lot more,” Boland said.

Ely recently got some more good news, he's done with treatment.

"He's not on a normal routine right now so to break us his hospital routine and his monotony of just sitting there and trying to recover and going through that process, it's huge. It's a distracter, we try as many distracters as we can right now and this has been a great one for us,” Mark said.

"Cancer is just a really horrible disease that we really need to just support more. But really the silver lining is the people,” Ally said.

"He's a wonderful kid we wish him all the best and we home that he's here to watch UVA win many more national championships,” Harrill said.



 
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