Laugh, love and enjoy the little things in life.
Five-year-old Mick Macholl died Dec. 13 after an 18-month battle with neuroblastoma, but the impact he had on others — and the message he left behind — will be remembered for years to come.
“Even at 5 years old, he inspired everyone that he was around,” said Ronnie Schneider, a senior on the North Carolina men's tennis team. “Even in the worst of times, he still had the humor of people two or three times his age.”
The team was paired with the Macholl family after Mick’s parents, Rachel and Mark, transferred his care from Duke to UNC Hospitals. In that time, the team has come to think of the Macholls as part of the UNC tennis family.
In November, the Macholls decided to temporarily move out to Arizona to seek further treatment at an integrated medical facility after conventional medicine had failed to help Mick. The men's tennis team decided to send its "little brother" off the best way it knew how — by officially making Mick a member of the team in his own signing ceremony.
“It’s like our family wasn’t in it by ourselves,” Rachel said. “We had an entire team behind Mick, and behind us, and that made all the difference.”
The players and coaches find the name of the program that paired them with the family — Team IMPACT — somewhat ironic. Because while the idea of the program is to lift the spirits of the family, they feel like they have received so much more in return from the Macholls.
“That little boy battled with everything he had and showed us so much about character and optimism,” assistant coach Tripp Phillips said. “The parents — the way they loved their son, took care of their other sons and were always optimistic in the face of impossible problems — we feel like we’ve been very lucky to know them.”
Mick continued to show the same fight and determination that inspired so many once he and his family moved to Arizona. Upon arrival at the AZ Good Health Center, he was sick from the last rounds of chemotherapy and radiation he received before the trip — so sick that his parents asked him if he wanted to keep fighting to get better, or go to heaven and be with Jesus.