When Michael Beauchesne was a baby, his parents Shaun and Jen, knew something was wrong. At 3 months old, he was missing important milestones like lying on his stomach to crawl and eating properly. He was later diagnosed with Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects many parts of the body and can delay development.
Despite this obstacle, Michael, now a 16-year-old sophomore at Bay High School, wanted to play basketball for his school. In April he was nationally recognized with the inaugural Jersey Mike’s Naismith National High School Basketball Courage Award. The award honors basketball players who have displayed courage in how they play with their team. Michael was selected out of 1,000 applicants to receive the honor.
“It’s been extremely overwhelming for us,” Shaun said. “Everyone had been extremely supportive of our son before that, but now he’s like a local celebrity.”
Nominated by his basketball coach Jared Shetzer, Michael was recognized after playing in his first game against Elyria Catholic in January. Shetzer got the idea after speaking with Elyria Catholic head coach Rob Palmer, who coached a player with Down syndrome, to organize a way both their players with disabilities could play in a real game. Although Michael didn’t score, the game had a lasting impact on him.
“When the whistle blew, he ran off the court with such a big smile, you could tell how elated he was,” Shetzer said.
Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, named after the scientists who discovered it, is a genetic condition that affects speech and causes seizures. There are only about 200 known cases of the ailment in the world, according to information from the National Library of Medicine.
Despite the obstacles, Michael wasn’t deterred from loving and wanting to participate in sports. Michael has played baseball and soccer since he was young and played basketball for Bay Middle School. Last year, he played for the high school’s soccer team.
“Michael has brought us closer together as a team,” Shetzer said. “Our motto is ‘Be our brother’s keeper,’ and Michael exemplifies that.”
Before school and sports shut down for the year, Michael attended practices and home games with the help of his service dog and special-education teacher Rick Manderine. He practiced with the team for an hour each day and sat on the bench during the home games. He did not travel with the team.
Since the announcement of Michael’s award, Bay Village residents have shown him and his family an outpouring of support. A Facebook post made by the Bay Village City School District has attracted more than 300 reactions and comments supporting Michael and his love of basketball.
In public, Shaun says that people have come up to talk to them and let them know how inspiring Michael’s story is. “Michael brings us a little closer to God and we’re supposed to share him,” Shaun said, quoting his father-in-law. “This is our way of sharing him.”
Michael got his love of sports from his older sisters, Abigail, 21, and Sophia, 18, who played sports growing up. Abigail is a senior at the University of Texas and Sophia is a five-time letterman for Bay High School.
Shetzer hopes the team can welcome back Michael for another year of basketball at the high school if world events allow.
“I think Michael is an example of what hard work and dedication look like,” Shetzer said. “Here’s a student who’s going through all of these things and wants to be a part of the team.
“There’s so much entitlement and selfishness going on in the world and Mickey is another example to the rest of the players who still find a way to show up and put the work in.”
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