Cleveland Cavaliers are Represented by a Hero with Neurofibromatosis

By Lauren Horton

Nick Gilbert's donation page picture with the Children's Tumor Foundation

Last night thousands of fans were glued to their television sets as the NBA draft lottery took place.  A representative from all 13 eligible teams sat at their respective desks and awaited the drawing to find out what pick number they would get.  There were some usual suspects sitting in those chairs, including general manager for the Bucks, John Hammond, Warriors owner, Joe Lacob, and Wizards point guard, John Wall.  But none of them garnered the attention and intrigue as did the dashing young man wearing Buddy Holly style glasses and a colorful bowtie that was seated as the representative for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Nick Gilbert, the 14 year old son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, was the unrequited star of the evening and ultimately won the big prize of first draft pick.  His charming smile and positive attitude had fans swarming to his twitter, which has grown to over 7,000 followers.  What makes this young man so magnetic is not just his lineage to the league but because he is fighting an incurable disease with infectious positivity.

Nick Gilbert has Neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a lifelong disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.  With one in every 3,000 children born with NF it is more prevalent than cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease.  NF is predominantly passed on genetically, however there are also instances of spontaneous genetic mutations that account for a small percentage of people with the disease.   NF affects both sexes as well as all races and ethnic groups equally.  NF is primarily diagnosed in childhood and is associated with a variety of complications including brain tumors, learning disabilities, deafness, blindness, and bone deformities.

Nick’s father told the Washington Post that Nick has had brain surgery, four rounds of chemotherapy and the loss of vision in one eye because of this disease.  “Nick has never complained a single time about the bad card he was dealt, and instead, chooses to focus on all that is good and exciting around him,” Dan Gilbert said at the NBA lottery draft.  “He is an example of perseverance, determination and life the way it should be lived. Nick is my personal hero.”

When the reporter asked Nick how he felt about being called a hero by his father, he charmingly answered, “What’s not to like?  I’m the oldest of five.  I have a good life.  I’m going through this disease, but I’m going through it well.  I’m getting better.  Research is helping with all the money people are donating.  Yeah, everything’s going good.”

Nick was chosen as the 2011 ambassador for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and is raking in the donations left and right since his national appearance.  Currently, there is no cure for NF; however donations given through the Children’s Tumor Foundation fund research that is making breakthroughs in new treatments in the hopes of moving closer to someday finding a cure for this lifelong disease.  Nick, his family and the Cleveland Cavaliers are doing their part.  In honor of May being NF Awareness month, for all dollars donated to Nick’s page from now until Friday, the Cavaliers organization will match dollar for dollar to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.   So far Nick has been able to raise almost $35,000, so the Cavaliers are looking to make a sizeable donation to the foundation.  And that, using Nick’s own words, makes me think “what’s not to like?” about this feel good story and its new hero, Nick Gilbert.