SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (KMTR) – Every king has his court and Friday, a Springfield boy got the royal treatment.
Jaya Joel Mattes or “JJ”, 7, was born with spina bifida and sacrel hygenisis, two syndromes that affect his spine. After 21 surgeries, JJ’s legs were amputated at the knees with the intention of stabilizing his spine more.
“It was a very hard decision to make and it made a lot of changes to Jaya as far as his body,” said Kristi Mattes, JJ’s mother. “He’ll get through it though, and there’s going to be great things. Jaya’s going to do great things when he gets older.”
How could he not; JJ said he when he grows up he wants to be a basketball player for none other than the University of Oregon Ducks Basketball Team.
“He runs on his arms, he is so fast!” laughed Kristi. “He is just like any other kid.”
As a single mom raising three kids, Kristi recently became a nurse. She has traveled in and out of the Willamette Valley visiting doctors and hospitals with JJ, so she said getting anything done is overwhelming, let alone a project measureable to what organizations did for them.
The Children’s Cancer Association (C.C.A) and Home Depot showed up to the Mattes family home early Friday morning to start working on a project all for JJ, paving his gravel driveway to make it a basketball court.
An energetic little boy in a wheelchair who loves football and basketball, JJ started playing on a league team recently. With a new basketball court he said he can’t wait to practice his hoops at home.
According to his mother, Kristi, all they asked for was some help getting a driveway. It was originally gravel which made it difficult for JJ to wheel in and out especially in the winter. The C.C.A took Mattes’ concerns into their own hands and went above and beyond.
Home Depot was able to provide the project with the help of a lot of donations and volunteers. They also gave him an electric guitar and guitar lessons from the Lesson Factory in Eugene and Portland Blazer gear.
Then something happened that a young boy only dreams about – his heroes, the stars most people watch on television and from afar in the stands, the team JJ wants to play for one day – showed up to play some ball.
One by one the Ducks basketball team shook JJ’s hands, picked him up for a couple slam dunks, watched him dribble and played around shooting some hoops, making JJ an honorary star.
“He’s wearing my jersey, so that’s cool!” E.J Singler, Ducks forward, told NewsSource 16. “He’s already been through so much at such a young age, it means a lot for us to come out here.”
Coach Dana Ultman invited the Mattes family to any game they’d like and gave JJ a signed basketball and tee-shirt.
JJ even showed off doing some pull ups on the basketball hoop rim.
Fittingly, JJ’s name represents his past well. ‘Jaya Joel’ means ‘victory and overcomer,’ two qualities anyone can see by just seeing JJ smile like he did throughout his big day.
Recovering well from his major surgery in June, JJ does have a few more obstacles to overcome.
“Reaching counters, getting himself a drink of water, brushing his teeth, all of those are things he still needs help with,” Kristi said. “They’re going to try and let him use prosthetic legs and we don’t know how well that will work yet or if it will work.”
For now, JJ continues to stand tall. As for the spotlight experience, JJ was relatively shy and overwhelmed when he talked to reporters, but described his day as “fun, cool and fantastic.”
The Children’s Cancer Association helps kids who need it, not just those with cancer. They’ve worked with JJ in the past and continue to offer aid for any child receiving medical care in Oregon and Southern Washington.
To get involved with the organization and make dreams come true for kids like JJ, visit their website.