Jude Stamper is a Mormon 12-year-old from Monroe, Michigan. He loves sports, but because he is confined to a wheelchair with limited mobility, he never thought he could be a part of a team.
Thanks to the University of Michigan basketball team and Team IMPACT, his dream came true.
Michigan basketball signed Jude for the game against Rutgers on Jan. 21. He was honored mid-court prior to the game, and many people, including former Michigan player Jalen Rose and head coach John Beilein, wore bow ties to honor Jude.
“They have embraced him. Coach Beilein absolutely loves him and he tells him that. He tells him he is a light in their lives,” said his mom, Courtney Stamper. “They have fully opened their doors not only to Jude, but our family.”
Jude was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex-Congenita, a disorder in which joints aren’t formed correctly and can’t bend normally.
Courtney Stamper still remembers her first routine ultrasound while pregnant when she found out Jude couldn't move his legs. Doctors were alarmed.
"In a matter of minutes they were telling us we may want to terminate the pregancy and that we were going to do an amniocentesis right away to see if it was why they thought," she said.
She and her husband, Nate, said termination wasn't an option and "we would have this baby and leave it up to the Lord." That's exactly what they did.
When Jude was born, doctors told the them he would never be able to walk.
Courtney Stamper said Jude has exceeded doctors’ expectations and can walk short distances, though he stays in a wheelchair most of the time due to lack of balance.
Jude has undergone 10 surgeries during his childhood, the most recent being in 2013 when his neck was reconstructed to give him more mobility.
His mother says though it hasn’t been easy, Jude has always remained positive about his health and is an inspiration to others.
“We tell him all the time, 'What you can’t do physically, you’re able to do socially by uplifting others,'" she said. "You’re showing others, 'Wow, look at this. I can’t play sports, but I’m on the Michigan basketball team. If you have a dream, you can reach your dream.’”
She said her family lives in the “mission field” in Michigan as they are one of two LDS families at the kids’ school, Triumph Academy.
“It’s been a great way for Jude to be a light to others,” said Courtney Stamper, who’s a convert to the LDS Church and was baptized at age 23. She and Nate were high school sweethearts.
She said she and her family believe in the resurrection and trust that one day, Jude will “be able to run and do everything he’s ever dreamt of.”
For now, Jude's dreams were able to come true in a unique way through his signing with the University of Michigan basketball team. Jude has loved University of Michigan Wolverines since he was very young. He’s close with his dad who has always been a huge Wolverine football fan.
The Stampers became involved with Team IMPACT, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting children with serious illness to collegiate teams, after seeing a young boy with a disorder sign with the Michigan football team.
After being accepted and working closely with the organization, the Stampers were paired with Michigan basketball a few months later.
The family was ecstatic and so was coach Beilein.
“We are so very pleased to welcome Jude to the Michigan basketball family,” Beilein said during the November signing ceremony held on National Signing Day, Landof10.com reported. “Jude brings great passion and enthusiasm to this program, and we are honored to have him on our team. We will continue to work hard toward another championship and know that Jude’s presence will be an important part of our journey.”
Jude has been spending a lot of time with the team. He goes to practices, watches film and sometimes even goes to dinner with them.
Director of program personnel Chinedu Nwachukwu said it’s been great to watch how the team has bonded with Jude.
“Jude’s got a ton of energy even with his disability and he has a great personality. The guys love hanging out with him. We’re happy to have him be a part of the Michigan basketball team,” Nwachukwu said.
Courtney Stamper said she and her husband are thankful for the Michigan basketball team, Team IMPACT and everyone who has reached out to their family.
“It all goes back to our desire to be missionaries and show the Lord we’re grateful,” she said. “We give the glory to him. That’s what our main objective is. When you’re blessed on an immense level like this, you can’t help but want to do all that you can to show him you’re grateful.”