Courtesy of Chicago Tribune:

The Sky will make Friday a special day for one of its fans. Taliyah Jackson, 17, will sign a one-day contract, address reporters during a news conference and join players in the locker room and on the bench when the Chicago Sky play the Seattle Storm 7:30 p.m. at Allstate Arena.

Jackson, who has muscular dystrophy as well as other debilitating medical conditions, was chosen for the honor as part of a partnership between the Sky and La Rabida Children’s Hospital, where she receives physical therapy. Last year the team gave Kiara Hood, another La Rabida patient with hemiplegic cerebral palsy, the VIP treatment.

On Jackson’s big day, she’ll meet Elena Delle Donne. “Her uncle’s been talking to her about her,” said Denise Smalley, Jackson’s mother. “She knows she’s a good player. Then she also knows she went to the …”

“Olympics!” Jackson chimed in, finishing her mom’s sentence.

On Thursday, Delle Donne said via email that she admires Jackson’s strength and courage and called her an inspiration.

“I know what it’s like to dream about something your entire life like playing professional basketball or playing in the Olympics,” Delle Donne said. “And I can’t wait to watch Taliyah’s dream come true tomorrow.”

Jackson, who starts her senior year at South Shore International College Prep on Tuesday, has come a long way since October 2013, when she first started having seizures, adding a new neurological disorder.

Doctors at Rush University Medical Center diagnosed Jackson with mitochondrial encephalitis and ataxia, which create a rare, degenerative brain condition that, among other things, slows her walking and speech and causes other abnormal movements.

Jackson was hospitalized at La Rabida until February 2014, and during her stay she was visited by Bulls star Jimmy Butler and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. She continues to work on her rehabilitation there and hasn’t had a seizure since that time.

Jackson is walking again, and can even run and dribble a basketball, but still requires a wheelchair at times. “If I go to a mall, I know I have to take her wheelchair with me because I know she wouldn’t be able to do a whole mall,” Smalley said. “But she can get around.”


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