19 rounds of chemo, legally blind, and a rare disorder hasn't stopped RC’s newest athlete

By Dominic Santina
Co-Sports Editor

The men's basketball team, along with RC staff and students, gathered in the lobby of Garth Pleasant Arena, on Tuesday, as the basketball team signed a new member to its team.

Wesley Cansler, a 5-year-old, from Hazel Park, has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called WAGR Syndrome, which affects his abilities to talk and see. Wesley has no iris in his eyes, which makes him legally blind. His development has been delayed, which makes speech almost impossible, but he has found ways around not being able to speak as he has created hand signals to communicate with his parents. If all of that is not enough, Wesley has already gone through 19 rounds of chemo.  

“Our program just got a whole lot tougher with Wesley being here,” Rochester College basketball coach Klint Pleasant said. “I think on his difficult days he’ll be able to lean on us and our difficult days and our hard days we’ll be able to lean in on him. It’ll be at true team effort. We’re really fired up about it.’’

Pleasant also went on to tell a story to the many students, athletes, family and friends gathered in attendance, a story that relates to Wesley. Pleasant explained how the team has Dr. Seuss books in its locker-room. Pleasant told the story of Horton Hears a Who and how the residents would make noise to prove their existence but could never be heard until they got a yip from one of their citizens—which Pleasant tied to his players saying they have been making noise playing basketball but now Wesley will bring them the Yip they have always needed, making their team complete now.  

The bond between the team and Wesley already proved strong Tuesday night as they played catch and Wesley ran around with a basketball in his hands. Some basketball players have already spent time visiting with Wesley. They spent time at his home on his birthday earlier this year. They have also taken visits to go play basketball and video games with him. Wesley will have a locker in the arena with his name on it. He will have a spot on the end of the bench for him and his family. Expect to see Wesley at home basketball games and practice.

Pleasant was contacted last year by a nursing student at Rochester College who brought the idea of Team Impact. Pleasant submitted an application and went through a long system of interviews and evaluations with the Boston-based company. The company, which started in 1960, pairs children with sickness or diseases with teams around the country that help teach life lessons and perspectives that are not learned in classrooms. Team Impact connected the RC basketball team with Wesley.  

Before long, Wesley will not just be a member of the basketball team, but will be a fixture around Rochester College campus.