Special needs athlete enjoys the spotlight

spotlight
Courtesy: KSNW

MULVANE, Kan. – – A special needs athlete who fought so hard for his and other special needs athlete right to wear a varsity letter was given a special opportunity Saturday night.

Michael Kelley, who will be a senior at Wichita East High School next year helped lead EFC fighter Steven “The Ninja” Nguyen into the ring for his very first professional fight at the Kansas Star Casino

It was almost a year to the day that the USD 259 Board of Education voted unanimously, six to zero, to allow all special needs athletes in the district the right to earn a varsity letter.

A year later, his mother, Jolinda Kelley, says things keep changing for the better.

“It’s been amazing that so many people around the country has reached out to our family and to Michael, it’s been nice to see people open up and give Michael a chance,” said Kelley.

Kelley says her son has received support from as far as England to right here in Wichita.

One person who has taken Michael under his wing is Tevin Jacques.

Jacques was drawn to Michael after hearing about his fight last year and even made Michael a letter jacket to show his support.

In January, Jacques opened Space Station clothing store in Old Town and has hired Michael to help out around his store.

“I started watching him and later on fell in love with him,” said Jacques.

Jacques introduced Michael to Nguyen, who has also formed a bond with him.

Nguyed decided for his first professional fight that he wanted Michael by his side as he walked into the ring.

“I brought him in the gym and we boxed around and I showed him how to hit the bag and stuff like that so trained before and he seemed to really like it,” said Nguyen.

After fighting so hard for Michael and other special needs athletes to earn varsity letters, Jolinda says the fight has been eased by all the love and support her son continues to get.

“My heart is about to explode knowing, I know how much I love him but knowing how much other people really love him support him and have his back,” said Kelley.

Kelley says the rest of this year should continue to be an exciting one for Michael.

In August, Michael will begin his senior year at East High and will get to enjoy one final year playing with his basketball team.

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