By TORRENCE DUNHAM
GSN Staff Writer
Brett Logan loves the spotlight — dancing and cheering for the home team during sports events.
The Gilbert teen has quite a resume in the sport of cheer as a member of the varsity cheer squad at his former high school in Colorado as well as participating on the junior Denver Broncos Cheerleading Team. In fact, he recently cheered at a Denver Broncos pre-season home game.
Last weekend, the 16-year-old home-schooled student signed an official letter of intent to become an Arizona State University Sun Devil Coed Cheer Squad teammate.
The signing was the result of the Team Impact program, which matches children facing serious or chronic illnesses with collegiate teams across the country. The Boston nonprofit has matched more than 1,800 children with over 600 universities in 48 states since 2011.
Brett has Down syndrome and battles frontal lobe epilepsy.
Brett’s adoptive mother Jennifer Nelson said her son struggles with seizures on a daily basis, adding he was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy — meaning he doesn’t respond to medication.
Nelson says six different medications so far have failed to help him, explaining that they worked for a short period of time before eventually failing.
Brett also began having a new type of seizure about a year-and-a-half ago. He was diagnosed with myoclonic seizures, which are short seizures that can occur multiple times a day. Nelson says Brett has several or so a day, but has suffered as many as 32 seizures in one day.
“It’s hard on him because he never knows when a seizure is coming on, but he does know when he’s had a seizure and it bothers him and it obviously bothers his family because it’s just hard to watch him go through that,” Nelson said.
“Then just the side effects of the medications can make him really tired,” she added. “He’s had a tough time in school lately because of it.”
Nelson said Brett next month will be getting a vagus nerve stimulator, which she said works like a pacemaker and might bring him some relief.
Despite his daily struggles, the sport of cheer is big for Brett.
“It gives him something to look forward to...he just gets to kind of be himself and it’s not about doctor’s appointments, medications and procedures,” Nelson said. “It’s just about him getting to be a teenager.”
Through Team Impact, Brett will get the opportunity to attend Sun Devil Cheer practices, games, dinners, team events and other activities.
Nelson and Brett connected with Team Impact while they were still living in Colorado.
Brett is the first Team Impact kid to participate with Arizona State University. Once the family moved to Arizona, Nelson said Brett’s aunt converted him to an Arizona State University Sun Devil fan.
Bianca Caryl, ASU director of dance team/spirit leader, said Associate Athletic Director Bill Kennedy reached out to her about the possibility of matching Brett with the team.
“I knew that the premise of it would be a great experience for my athletes and my program...I was only slightly concerned that we would be able to make the commitment that the program required, that Team Impact required,” Caryl said.
“But once I thought about it, it was easy to figure it out and just be like we have to do this. It’s going to be great.”
Caryl said Brett has already made an impact in his short time with the players.
“When he is around my students, they are so excited to see him and connect with him and he just kind of melts their hearts,” Caryl said, adding Brett’s presence helps put things in the right perspective.
“They just really have embraced him anytime they’ve had an opportunity to be around Brett. They have so much fun and they’re always super motivated and just very touched. It’s a very genuine experience when they’re around him.”
During the letter of intent signing ceremony on Aug. 25, Caryl and the cheer squad officially welcomed Brett to the maroon and gold family.
“It was super cool to watch how well my team supported Brett, they all showed up to support him,” Caryl said. “They were super excited about the whole thing and you could see how excited he and his family were...there was a lot of emotion, genuine emotion in the room. There were a lot of happy tears.”
Nelson added, “It was really exciting. It was really fun just to see him right in his element. He was very happy that all the attention was on him and he really loves cheer and so he’s happy to be part of this spirit squad.”
In addition to participating with Team Impact, Brett is a lifetime ambassador for Nothing Down, which helps families of people with Down syndrome and works to eradicate its stigma.