Michigan State senior Adreian Payne addresses the crowd during a senior day ceremony as he stands with his guest, Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old from St. Johns, Mich., who is battling cancer, following an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Thursday, March 6, 2014, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 86-76. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Updated: April 10, 2014 6:41AM
Pessimism, crankiness, even anger set in when a cold spell grips the city for months.
Neighbors jaw at each other over parking spots or blowing snow on a driveway.
It’s as if the cold were running through our veins.
That is until you come across a story that warms your soul.
Recently I read an article in Bleacher Report about a little girl from St. Johns, Mich., who is battling neuroblastoma, a cancer that strikes infants and children.
Lacey Holsworth, 8, has family and friends willing her through surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but one man stands out: Adreian Payne, the guy she calls Superman.
Payne is a star basketball player for Michigan State University and he’s quite a giant at 6-foot-10. He and his teammates met Lacey in January 2012 when they visited sick kids at the hospital in Lansing, Mich., that was treating her.
It is common for college athletes to occasionally visit hospitals, a good deed to make someone’s day and generate positive publicity for the team. In a video produced last year by the Big Ten Network, Lacey says she asked Payne to stay with her a while longer that day because of his smile. He gave her his phone number and told her to stay in touch.
He has stuck with this precocious little girl ever since. The bond between them has gone well beyond a goodwill gesture. It transcends color (she is white; he is brown) and sport.
They refer to each other as brother and sister. She sends him supportive text messages from her smartphone as well as on Twitter, and he responds in kind.
She goes by Princess Lacey on Twitter, and you can see there that she loves all things pink — and green if it’s associated with Michigan State. Her Twitter feed is filled with photographs that show off her megawatt smile. She offers upbeat musings to all.
“She’s fighting so much and still has a smile on her face,” Payne said by phone. “To see a young girl go through a fight like that and still have so much joy ... she’s only 8 years old.”
I first read about their friendship last year, but I bring it up now because Lacey is fighting a recurrence of the disease. She could use good wishes from Chicago even though she has Superman on her side.
Payne has used his celebrity status at Michigan State to generate awareness of the disease and donations for Lacey’s foundation. Physically and emotionally, he picks her up. She has reciprocated with unconditional love, the kind you often find in tight-knit families.
“Superman! You’re here,” she said when he visited after a recent surgery. That was recounted in the Bleacher Report article.
“She looks at me like that,” Payne told me. “I try to keep that image for her to keep her strong.”
Thursday, Lacey felt strong enough to join Payne for his senior-night recognition ceremony after a win against Iowa. With one hand, she held his as they prepared to make their entrance. The other held a bouquet of roses. She wore a sparkly skirt, green Michigan State jersey and an eager grin.
Payne swooped her up in his arms to carry her across the basketball court.
Just like Superman.