Phoenix Suns' Fan with autism, surprised with tickets to first game
|[Photo: Skye Kowlessar] Luke Tucker outside of Talking Stick Resort Arena.|
Girls Talk Sports TV in collaboration with the Playing Special Foundation teamed up to make Luke Tucker's dream of attending his first Phoenix Suns game come true.Phoenix Suns super-fan, Luke Tucker, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome; a condition in which the left side of his heart is missing, as well as his corpus callosum-- the piece that connects the left and right side of his brain.
At age twelve, he was diagnosed with autism.
"When it comes to having a sibling with special needs or a family member, it's definitely something that impacts the entire family," said Hanna Bee, Luke's older sister.
By age 15, Luke had four open heart surgeries.
“He wasn’t supposed to make it past the age of three,” said Hanna, adding, “Now he’s 17-years-old and was given a life expectancy of age twenty. It’s not easy, having a sibling and knowing that there is a timeline.”
Destiny Melton, sister of Phoenix Suns point guard De'Anthony Melton could relate with the challenges of growing up with a sibling with special needs.
Destiny and De'Anthony's younger brother Damani, has down syndrome.
|[Photo: Skye Kowlessar] Destiny Melton and younger brother Damani.|
In 2018, Destiny created the Playing Special Foundation -- which encourages children with special needs (and adults) to play sports, while also raising awareness about those with special needs.
"What inspired me to start my foundation, was seeing what my mom had to go through with taking care of my younger brother," said Destiny, adding. "I wanted to bring more awareness because I feel that there are people who need a community of support."
Destiny and Hanna's path's crossed through Girls Talk Sports TV's founder, Khristina Williams.
|[Photo: Skye Kowlessar] Hanna Bee, Luke Tucker, Destiny Melton, and Damani.|
"I was on Facetime with Hanna one night, and Luke was in the background watching the Suns game on TV, in between commercials he'd come up to the phone and ask if we could get him tickets to the game," said Williams.
A few days prior, Williams had received an email from Destiny regarding her very first basketball clinic for her Playing Special Foundation, and the two connected.
“At the end of that call with Hanna, I immediately reached out to Destiny, who I knew had a connection with the Suns’ organization due to her brother playing for them; and shared Luke's story,” Williams recalled.
Luke, a Phoenix native, had never been to a Suns game.
“When Khristina told me how big of a Suns fan he was, I literally went full throttle. I called the Suns organization and was like: I want to put together something, who do I talk to?" said Destiny.
Destiny and the Suns organization was able to surprise Luke and his family with 11 tickets to their Jan. 4th game against the L.A. clippers.
According to his sister Hanna, Luke watches every Suns game, and even records them to watch again at later times.
"He has a little white board that he uses to write down the schedule of each game. It's definitely been something for him to look forward to," said Hanna.
Basketball has become an essential part of Luke’s life, allowing him to create a schedule and structure within his life, according to Hanna.
After the game on Jan. 4 Luke was also able to meet his favorite Suns player, Devin Booker; a special moment that has since went viral.
In the video, you see Devin Booker walking out of the locker room, as he spots Luke, he graciously walks up to him and greets him. Luke caught everyone by surprise because he threw the ball at Devin, who caught it, before Luke goes and gives Devin a body slam handshake.
“He was so excited, and so shy that he didn’t know how to interact,” Hanna recalled, adding, “It makes me smile, seeing how happy and excited he was.”