The courage of 18-year-old Ebony Nettles-Bey, who passed away from cancer last Wednesday, impacted so many people in her short life, including NBA basketball star LeBron James.
“It was remarkable the courage she showed and the fact that she still wanted to play basketball. She was such an amazing inspiration to so many young people,” says Boys and Girls Club President and CEO Michael Johnson. “She’s been a member of the Boys and Girls Club as long I have been the CEO. Strong young lady. Beautiful young lady. She seemed to be loved by everybody.”
Nettles-Bey died last week from complications of Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare, aggressively malignant type of soft-tissue cancer that was first diagnosed in the muscles of her chest and abdomen on Sept. 30, 2013.
Ebony was a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County and her family recently has asked BGCDC to set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the funeral expenses to lay Ebony to rest this week. In order to secure a date, Ebony’s family must raise an initial $5,600 in the next 48 hours to move forward with the planning of the services. “The funeral will either happen on Friday and Saturday and we have a lot of money to raise in a little time,” Johnson says. “Every little donation would be greatly appreciated. This is where the Madison community can come together and do something really good and I am confident that they will. They always have and always will. I’m optimistic.
“When the family reached out and asked for our help, we wanted to step up right away,” Johnson adds. “The family is really grieving right now.”
Before her diagnosis, Nettles-Bey was a first-team All-Big Eight Conference point guard who averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore at Madison West. She was excited about her transfer the following school year to state girls basketball power Verona. She had an oral commitment to play college ball at UW-Milwaukee and her ultimate goal was to play in the WNBA.
On March 29, 2014, Ebony was able to chat with and shoot warm-ups with former Miami Heat star Lebron James before a game versus the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. “That was just huge for her. I know it was something that she really, really wanted and I know the family was excited that she got to fulfill that dream and meet her hero,” Johnson says. “She just idolized him.”
The Boys and Girls Club family has been hit hard by Ebony’s death but they are working hard to create a positive out of it.
“Here’s how I look at it. Death is a part of life and we honestly try to talk to our young people about it,” Johnson says. “In the meantime, we will celebrate her life and do what we can to help her family.”