By Isaac Holt
Sometimes real superheroes live in the hearts of children fighting big battles.
“From the first moment I walked into the hospital room, you could see his infectious smile,” said Sam Murphy, University of Nebraska at Omaha student and Mavericks baseball pitcher.
“Every time we saw him he was just so happy and joyful,” said Avery Peterson, a Mavericks hockey player.
“Being with a kid like him just always made my day better,” said Alex Schultz, a Mavericks baseball outfielder.
The UNO athletes all spoke of one remarkable child: Parker Chipman.
The six-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) on Aug. 22, 2014, at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, forever altering his life and many UNO’s athletes.
The initial signs of cancer started in the summer of 2014, when Parker began experiencing pain in his left shoulder. His parents Doug and Karra Chipman, said “doctors thought he tore something or that it was juvenile arthritis be-cause his blood sample showed no signs of Leukemia.” Nonetheless, something was wrong.
So Parker’s blood work was tested multiple times. Without finding any trace of cancer.
Weeks later, doctors suggested he have an MRI done. This revealed what no person would ever wish on a child, cancer. Immediately, Parker had a sample of his spinal fluid sent to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Cancer Research Center in California in order to properly diagnose the rare form of AML Parker had in his body.
“When they finally found out what it was,” Parker’s mother said, “it was a complete shock to everybody.”
Weeks later, as Parker received his second wave of chemotherapy, a family friend reached out to the UNO baseball team and asked if athletes could sign a baseball to give to the young boy.
So the team obliged. The baseball team followed Parker’s progression. Concerned for his well being, the team decided to make a hospital visit to meet him.
“None of us knew who we were going to visit, all we knew is he was a sick child,” said Murphy, a left-handed pitcher. “But the minute we walked in, we Instantly got attached to him.”
Parker made friends with UNO’s hockey team by happenstance. Peterson, whose position is a for-ward on the hockey team, was conducting his weekly rounds visiting children at the Omaha hospital when he first met Parker.
“Before we walked in,” Peterson said, “I remember the nurses warning us that he had a pretty serious issue.”
The moment the hockey players opened his hospital door Parker, who was dressed in his batman costume, ran toward the guys ready to meet new friends.
“That was just a cool experience, to see someone with such a tough situation, be so happy through it,” Peterson said.
But that was Parker, his parents said. Parker was truly the only child who could have gone through something so painful and so hard, yet keep a constant smile on his face.
“Every time you walk into the room he’s smiling,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t matter if he has 10 IV’s in him or he just went through his fourth round of chemo. He always had a smile on his face.”
Those who speak of Parker say he was a child like no other. Some-one who had every right to be angry at his situation, but decided to care more about laughing and loving everyone he met.
He may have been the biggest UNO Mavericks fan, but the UNO Mavericks became bigger fans of him.
Parker underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a bone mar-row transplant during his fight with cancer.
Parker passed away on April 6, 2015 at his home. That day, before passing, his last visitors were a few UNO baseball players.
Peterson remembers getting the text informing him that Parker had died.
He said: “I just remember staring at the text for 20 minutes. I didn’t know what to do or say.”
Parker was indeed a superhero. At age 6, he inspired many and has left lasting impressions on the athletes who knew him.
“I think of Parker quite often. I help run hospital visits to the Children’s Hospital every week so every time I go there, I remember the first time I saw him,” Peterson said.
“I think of him when I am struggling to find inspiration to work-out, practice or play hard,” said Schultz, the baseball outfielder. “Anytime I have a negative mind-set I think about Parker, who lived his life to the fullest and was cheated out on it. My mindset quickly changes.”
The impact Parker made on the two UNO teams — Hockey and Baseball — pushes these athletes to do more in the community and for others.
Hockey players continue their weekly visit kids in the Children’s Hospital.
Several baseball players make school visits and help with after-school programs for children all across Omaha.
Parker’s legacy survives through everyone who caught a glimpse of his smile and was touched by his passion for living everyday to the fullest.