When the Wilcox High School Chargers beat the Fremont High School Firebirds in Varsity basketball 61-43 on January 22 at Wilcox, it was not just a victory for the Wilcox basketball team.
The game was a fund-raiser dedicated to Shantee Butler, the 48-year-old mother of former Wilcox basketball players Deshawn and Franchon Butler, and winning it was a symbolic victory in Butler’s fight against stage-four lung cancer.
“It was a big night tonight,” said Wilcox head basketball coach Robert Toloy, who had shined the spotlight on the Butlers. “Tonight was a special evening honoring the Butler family.”
A banner reading “We Play for Shantee” was strung across the wall on the home team side of the gym, and before the game, the national anthem was sung in her honor. Then the Butler family was escorted to the middle of the gym floor, and the entire Wilcox basketball team huddled, forming a powerful, protective circle around the family, moving some to tears.
Fifteen-year-old Deshawn and Franchon–six-foot-four-inch, twin brothers–gave up their sophomore spots as highly-valued members of the varsity basketball team for the remainder of the season to help care for their mother, who single-handedly raised them as a single mom. They also help their grandmother, who has beginning-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was hard,” said Deshawn. “I’m not a quitter and I don’t like to quit something I love, but family has to come first.”
“We were playing on the team, but it was getting harder and harder for my mom because she’d get tired easily, and she was getting nauseous. We didn’t want her to have to pick us up late from practice and have to wait in the parking lot, so we just made the decision on our own to help her,” said Franchon.
“I didn’t want them to quit,” said Butler, who was diagnosed in August 2015. The twins have applied for a special driver’s license, to permit them to drive their mom to and from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Monique Butler, Butler’s sister-in-law and advocate, has established a Go Fund Me account to raise money to help with medical and living expenses: www.gofundme.com/hekbdw8s, and a number of contributions came in during and after the game, inching the account towards the $10,000 goal. Four tickets to the Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game, which features the twins’ favorite player (Thunder star Kevin Durant), were given to the family. Members of the Wilcox dance team pressed a check into Butler’s hand.
“I don’t feel ‘thank you’ is a strong enough word to tell you how I feel inside. God bless every one of you for helping, for caring, for keeping us positive,” said Butler, adding, “If you’re walking with God, you’re halfway at the cure.”
Butler and her sons began explaining just who “everyone” is: The Wilcox student body, the basketball team and coach Toloy, the dance team, AAU Boys Basketball coach Larry Williams, Katie Fields (mother of a friend), long-time friends from the San Jose Color Guards that Butler belonged to as a teenager, Bible Way Christian Center, family.
“Shantee and the twins are a blessing, and I love the opportunity to be there to help them,” said Monique Butler.
“We thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts. These blessings are helping me pay my rent and bills,” said Butler, who worked for many years in retail, most recently at the T.J. Max in Santa Clara, but now is on medical disability with reduced income.
“This shows me that there really is a lot of love in the world. Even though there’s a lot of ugly things going on, there’s more beautiful than ugly–all the beautiful people who came out tonight to support me and my family,” said Butler.