Valdosta Daily Times

April 10, 2014

Strength of character

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — It was an unusual friendship — a tiny 8-year old girl with long blonde hair and the 6’10” Michigan State basketball player. She was battling cancer and he met her on a team visit to the hospital. The two became fast friends, big brother and little sister, a part of each other’s families.

On Wednesday, Lacey Holsworth succumbed to the cancer she had struggled with throughout her short life. The question was never if she would live, but how long. The end was anticipated. All that could be done for Lacey was to make her time on earth as pain-free and pleasant as possible.

Adreian Payne, a soft spoken star on the Spartans hoops team, spent the last two years helping Lacey live a full and happy life. Princess Lacey was on the sidelines whenever she could be. Adreian carried her onto the court for Senior’s Night; she got to help him cut down the net after MSU won the Big Ten tournament.

When she was sick at home or in the hospital, he visited her and called her often. MSU Coach Tom Izzo said Adreian and Lacey’s bond was inspirational to watch and helped to not only inspire the team but put a different perspective on things for them all. Izzo said he could coach basketball but he couldn’t coach life lessons any better than the one that both Lacey and Adreian exemplified.

There was no requirement for the team to visit the hospital or to interact with the children. There was no publicity until close to the end of Lacey’s life, and the friendship they shared was two years old at that point. There was no reason for this tall basketball player and this tiny young girl to connect other than through chance, but connect they did.

Adreian may have made the last two years of her life happier, but the last two years with Lacey filled Adreian’s life with purpose and meaning. No truer gift is there than selfless love. It comes in unusual forms, through chance meetings, and puts people together that would otherwise never have a reason to connect, but that selfless love will undoubtedly be passed on to others through Adreian, his team mates, his coach, and all who witnessed the miracle of this beautiful friendship.