The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 27th

'They were superheroes': UNC men's tennis stays close with Macholl family

<p>UNC men's tennis player Robert Kelly poses for a photo while wearing a "Mick" badge on his arm to commemorate Mick Macholl, a 5-year-old super fan of the team&nbsp;who died on Dec. 13&nbsp;after an 18-month battle with neuroblastoma.</p>
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UNC men's tennis player Robert Kelly poses for a photo while wearing a "Mick" badge on his arm to commemorate Mick Macholl, a 5-year-old super fan of the team who died on Dec. 13 after an 18-month battle with neuroblastoma.

“Mick went through things much harder,” senior Jack Murray said. “So I think that in my head, it has given me more of an ability to push through and get off of myself and realize that I have more left than I realize — because he gave a lot more than he had ever had to give up.”

“That’s mainly how it’s affected my tennis, just to push through and (persevere) when the odds are against you. He’s always on my mind.”

Over a year and a half ago, the Macholl family was introduced to the team through Team IMPACT, and the team officially signed him in early November. One month later, 5-year-old Mick lost his 18-month battle to neuroblastoma.

“Mick was just a super, super kid, super strong, such a fighter,” senior Ronnie Schneider said. “Even until his last moments, when I was getting text messages from his mom in his last few days and his last few hours on Earth, he was such a fighter.”

During one of the team’s visits to the hospital, Mick was getting his tubes cleaned out, and all Murray could recall was the child’s crying. No matter how bad the pain was, Mick wouldn’t stop the tube cleaning until it was finished.

“When we were there, you would never have any idea the battles that he was going through,” Schneider said. “His battles were more than anything I could ever imagine ... I would never wish it upon anybody.”

Although Mick is gone, the bond between the family and the team remains strong. On Saturday, Murray and Schneider visited Mick’s parents and siblings. Murray said it was as if they were visiting aunts, uncles and cousins. After an emotional greeting, the two seniors spent hours playing games and fooling around with Mick’s brothers, Tyce and Trey, and the family’s pet guinea pigs.

“On the inside, I’m sure they’re still grieving and still hurting,” Schneider said. “But they’re doing such an amazing job of giving the appearance that they’re trying to move on.”

“They’re trying to push past it, but at the same time, the whole thing with Mick is always there, very prevalent ... If they need anything, you know, we’re there for them.”

Mick’s parents unknowingly left a lasting impression on the young men. When the team played with 5-year-old Mick, some of the players would drift to Rachel and Mark Macholl, whose optimism did not go unnoticed. For junior Robert Kelly, the Macholls embodied the meaning of strength and faith.

“They were superheroes ... ” Kelly said. “No matter what was going on, she never snapped at us ... I love them. I never thought that I would warm up to strangers like that, as we did.”

With a historic day in the books, the Tar Heels only wished to have one more day with Mick — to at least tell him how much he meant to them.

“I miss him,” Kelly said. “And I hope he is looking down on us. I hope we’re making him proud.”



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