The most memorable moment during the McPherson High football season for me wasn’t the goal-line stand against Buhler in the season opener or even the 2-point “Jade” conversion play in the playoffs against those same Crusaders for the walk-off overtime victory that led to a rushing of the field by Bullpup Nation.
No, the No. 1 moment for me— hands-down — was when McPherson seventh-grader Kaiden Schroeder was brought out on the field for the coin toss before the MHS-Andale game last Friday.
People who know me will agree that very seldom am I at a loss for words. The past few years I have served as color analyst for MHS sporting events, now alongside Jim Joyner, who is one of the top young talents in Kansas and has a big future in broadcasting.
It’s been well documented how Kaiden, the son of Jenny and Chris Schroeder, has been fighting a courageous battle against lymphocytic leukemia for several years now. He has been struggling mightily recently, yet he was in attendance for the Bullpups’ game and served as honorary captain.
MHS captains Ben Nikkel, Gunnar Reiss, Jayse Alexander and Tyson Stites stood behind the littlest Bullpup during the coin toss, then he watched the game from the sideline.
As this was unfolding, I found myself having a hard time doing my job. The emotion of seeing Kaiden on the field, knowing how hard he’s been fighting, caused my voice to crack and tears to well up in my eyes.
I have only talked with Kaiden a couple of times, but been the better for it. We share the same birthday, so I always consider him my “birthday buddy.” Knowing what he has gone through, I can say without equivocation that he’s the most courageous person I have met and it’s not even close.
“Kaiden’s Crusaders” were out in force as I think I saw more than 1,000 fans wearing their Kaiden T-shirts. Every game there is a theme for MHS students and fans and this time it was to honor Kaiden. He received a standing ovation from the McPherson community and deservedly so. The town has been saying a lot of prayers for Kaiden in recent years and hopefully God will continue to hear them and lessen our little warrior’s pain.
Kaiden has been all over the country receiving treatment and I pray for him and his family. This is a tragic ordeal, but Kaiden continues to battle with all his might as all he has ever wanted is to be well and be a Bullpup.
Kansas State University also has been special in Kaiden’s life. Starting with coach Bill Snyder and former Wildcat All-American Ryan Mueller, Kaiden was able to live his dream of scoring a touchdown in the 2014 Kansas State Spring Football Game. I was watching the video today of his 30-yard run to paydirt and then the Wildcat team rushed to the end zone and put him on their shoulders. I get goose bumps every time I watch it.
There are times when I think I’m having a bad day and feel sorry for myself. Then I think of Kaiden and everything he’s gone through and how he keeps a positive attitude. That makes my troubles seem petty and insignificant and it’s something we should all remember when we’re having our personal pitty party.
I have asked for my Christmas present in advance. All I want is for Kaiden to receive a miracle, somehow, some way. I want to be able to write about all his accomplishments, be it athletically or academically.
Above all, I want my little birthday buddy to have a long and prosperous life. I’m praying for you, Kaiden. We all are.