The biggest story of March Madness may not be who wins the men's college basketball championship but a friendship between an eight-year-old girl with cancer and a Michigan State player — and the fundraising for the girl by a Spartans' fan as a result.
Lacey Holsworth is an eight-year-old girl with neuroblastoma, a rare form of nerve cancer. Adreian Payne is a six-foot-ten star of the Spartans, according to People.
Payne and Holsworth met two years ago when the basketball player visited a children's hospital, and he immediately noticed her sense of optimism.
"She calls me her 'Superman,' but she's the one who's got the super strength," Payne explained to the Detroit Free Press, according to the people.com article. "She's incredible with everything she's gone through. [Doctors] told her she wouldn't walk again. But she did. She's just an incredible fighter. And if I can bring her a little bit of happiness to help her forget everything for a little while, then that's what I want to do."
Holsworth and Payne often text and talk to each other. She calls him, "brother." He calls her, "princess." She recently joined her favorite player on the court for Senior Night. The eight-year-old smiled as he helped Holsworth cut down the net when the Spartans won the Big Ten conference championship.
Payne said he has learned that "it can't be all about you." He added it is "more important to have a role" in the lives of others.
Payne has learned from experience. When he was 13 he searched for an inhaler while his mother had an asthma attack, but she died. His grandmother, who then raised him, also later died from complications of asthma.
As a result of the friendship between Holsworth and Payne, a Michigan State fan has launched a fundraising campaign to pay for the girl's expenses. The goal was to raise $50,000. So far $28,000 has been raised, according to Mashable.
Payne has visited Lacey and her family several times. The family has been to a number of Spartan games.
NBC speculated the Spartans may gain a number of fans because of the friendship between Lacey and Adreian.