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Not Some Kid – He’s One of the Guys

Eagles basketball team takes special youngster under its collective wing

11/12/15
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Quinn and his family with BC men’s basketball coach Jim Christian and Eagles players earlier this fall, when they “drafted” the boy onto the team roster through a national organization that seeks to help improve the quality of life for children with serious illnesses. (Photosby John Quackenbos)

By Reid Oslin | Special to the Chronicle  

Published: Nov. 12, 2015

The Boston College men’s basketball team has its share of near seven-foot centers, power forwards and speedy, sharp-shooting guards on this year’s squad, but the inclusion of special nine-year-old boy in team activities may just turn out to be one of the team’s most significant roster additions.

Quinn Amsler, a youngster from nearby Lexington, was diagnosed with sarcoma, a form of cancer, last April. In a matter of weeks, he found his life transformed from school, sports and family fun into one of long and painful chemotherapy, hospital beds and not knowing what the future would bring.

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BC men’s basketball coach Jim Christian says the team has formed a special bond with nine-year-old Quinn Amsler, who is battling cancer. “This relationship is very special to all of these kids. It makes them really understand that the things they think are hard, the things that they go through on a daily basis that are uncomfortable for them, are nothing compared to what this young man goes through.” (Photo by John Quackenbos)

Recently, BC hoops coach Jim Christian and his players decided to “draft” Quinn onto the Boston College roster through a program called “Team IMPACT,” a national organization based in Boston, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Quinn did not have to go far to find his favorite college team: His dad, Joseph Amsler, is a 1988 graduate of Boston College; both of his paternal grandparents are BC alumni; and so are three of his favorite cousins, including Jeffrey Jay ’15, a former BC football player.

When pre-season practice opened in October, Christian and his players arranged to make Quinn a Boston College Eagle, too, with a realistic “signing” ceremony adding him to the basketball team roster.

“Quinn had always watched his brothers play basketball and he had started to play himself – but now, of course, he cannot play,” explains his mother, Shannon Amsler. The family was obviously delighted when Christian and his team asked the youngster to join them for practices and games when he feels up to it.

“It’s been fun for Quinn,” says Amsler. “He loves the boys as players, but they have actually been cheerleaders for him. They are so positive and so kind to him. We have had a few interactions with the team so far, and each one of them has been enormously positive.

“Quinn really looks forward to them.”

Amsler says that the team’s involvement with her son has already grown far beyond the typical on-court connection. “They treat him like a normal boy – they don’t talk about his illness,” she notes. “He is looking forward to the day when he can play sports again. So to have this experience and be a part of a team is really special.”

In addition to the usual basketball banter, Amsler says that several team members have told Quinn that they are praying for his complete recovery, and other players have volunteered to accompany him to Boston’s Farber Cancer Center for his chemo treatments.

“I’m the mother of three boys,” says Amsler. “You always want your children to be polite and everything, but every single young man on that team has taken the time to spend time with Quinn in the few weeks that he has been with them. Their parents must be so proud.”

Christian says that he is not surprised by his players’ support in the boy’s struggle against the dreaded disease. “Every time Quinn comes around, I just see everyone smile,” Christian says. “This relationship is very special to all of these kids. It makes them really understand that the things they think are hard, the things that they go through on a daily basis that are uncomfortable for them, are nothing compared to what this young man goes through.

“Quinn has an unbelievable impact on them and they certainly have a great respect for him and his family and for what they are going through,” Christian says. “He’s an inspiration.”

As for Quinn, he is a little perplexed with all of those tall student-athletes circling around him but he clearly appreciates the chance to be a member of the BC team.

“I’m looking forward to the season,” the youngster says. “I hope it’s a good time.

“They all are really nice to me and they help me,” he adds softly. “They help me a lot.”