Life is full of ups and down, ebbs and flows, but at 9 years old, Steele McKinney has faced more challenges than most of us face in our entire lives.
From Salt Lake City, Utah, Steele began his life as an energetic, playful young boy, with basketball always at the forefront of his interests.
“We used to soothe him by giving him a ball,” said Chance McKinney, Steele’s father.
In January 2019, Steele’s young life would change in a way him and his family could have never imagined.
“Steele was presented with Diabetes Insipidus, [and] after several tests they found a brain tumor,” said Lisa McKinney, Steele’s mother. “He’s been through transsphenoidal brain surgery to remove the tumor…that biopsy came back with cancer. So he started chemotherapy [and] has endured 50 chemotherapy treatments.”
Steele’s chemotherapy began in November 2019 and the treatments would take a lot out of him. He would suffer 105-degree fevers, welts, blisters, nausea, swelling, fatigue, and more.
Yet, amid Steele’s evergoing treatments, there was something Steele continued to hold close to his heart, basketball.
Living up to the toughness of his name, Steele persevered. He kept a positive attitude and never focused on the circumstances he found himself in. In fact, according to his father, he was almost too determined during this time.
“He never once focused on being sick or acting like he was a sick kid. If anything, a lot of times we had to try to slow him down and remind him his body needed rest.”
Steele began playing and following hoops at a very young age. His favorite team? The Utah Jazz.
Steele arrived at Vivint Arena, the home of the Jazz, with his family on April 29th, 2021, which also happened to be Make-a-Wish’s “World Wish Day”. Steele was just expecting a fun photo shoot at the arena with his parents, but a surprise appearance from Aaron at Dr. Dish began to let him know this day may have more in store.
After walking through the back of the arena and admiring a lot of the team artwork on the walls,
It was time for Steele to find out exactly why he was at the arena.
“Our whole team in Minnesota, our whole company, we love your story,” said Aaron. “I know we told you we’re here for a photoshoot, but I actually have a surprise for you.”
Aaron then asked Steele to follow him onto the arena court, where his entire family was there holding signs and cheering him on, and under the basket was his very own personalized Dr. Dish CT machine, complete with his name in the same font and style as his favorite team, the Utah Jazz.
Instead of simply getting Steele a machine, his Wish Day turned into a full itinerary.
After getting acquainted with his new machine, Dr. Dish’s very own Coach Mason ran onto the court and together the two went through a number of drills that ranged from ball handling to shooting.
Jazz Bear, the Utah mascot, even made a surprise appearance to challenge Steele to a shooting contest, which Steele would win.
To cap off an incredible day, Aaron brought over one final gift. He revealed a shoebox that on the outside read “Determination Over Negativity” and inside housed a pair of brand-new basketball shoes from Steele’s favorite player, Donovan Mitchell. Following the wish, Donovan caught world of Steele's story, and even signed the shoes for the youngster.
The expression on Steele’s parents’ faces the entire day truly showed the impact the experience had on not only the 9-year old who was having the time of his life, but the parents who were able to see their son once again be that playful little boy they remember.
“This is pretty spectacular that he is able to do these things, and as parents it is so important for us to see him continue to do these things,” said Lisa. “It just will help keep him doing what he’s doing and being a little boy for as long as he possibly can.”
Months after Wish day, Steele was putting in work like never before on his new Dr. Dish machine. A typical day of workouts includes 300-500 shots on the CT machine, with an impressive shooting percentage of 60% from the field.
“The best part of this Wish is that Steele is using the machine daily. This has been the gift that keeps on giving day in and day out!’ recalled his Dad, Chance McKinney
It’s a gift the McKinney family, and Steele specifically, are getting plenty of use out of no matter the time of year. Chance tells us that Steele has been so willing to get reps in on the Dish that the two will push the machine a quarter mile down the road from their house in the middle of winter to use it at the closest indoor gym, often times braving slush, snow, and the elements to have the opportunity to put work in.
“He doesn't really think of himself as a "kid with cancer," Chance says. “He's more worried that he "lost time" and "other kids got ahead" while he was laying in the hospital. I won't say the Dr. Dish cured my son, but it sure helps him forget about those times and lets him feel like he's "catching up" with the others. One day... he'll look back, and realize he never fell behind.”