Miracle Mascot | VideoNicole DesRosier | 2/6/2013
While it`s not uncommon for schools to have a mascot, the Heart River Cougar in Belfield stands out from the crowd, and what makes him truly special is his heart...literally.
15-year-old Theron Lee put everything he had into being the cougar last year, dancing in front of crowds and high-fiving kids at basketball games. On the outside, he looked like any other mascot, but on the inside something was completely different.
"He was born with a heart defect. We knew that from day one," said his father, Michael.
"His heart is backwards," said his mother, Erica.
He took a turn for the worse this summer. During a routine visit, his heart stopped and doctors decided he needed an internal defibrillator. After surgery, it was tested to make sure it worked, but his heart stopped again.
"One of my cheerleaders called crying saying he coded," said cheerleading coach Amanda Kuntz.
"It was shocking. It was supposed to be a routine exam and the next thing you know, he`s on life support and you don`t know what`s going to happen." said Michael.
The lack of oxygen to his brain set off a series of events causing him to lose the ability to speak, walk, feed himself and many other tasks, all of which kept him from being the mascot this year.
When the people in town heard that, they rallied around him and his family.
"My family`s been supportive of me. Everybody`s been supportive of me," Theron said.
"Fundraisers, Dan`s Conoco sponsored a dunk tank and made up pink t-shirts, because they know Theron hates pink." Michael said.
Theron spent weeks in the Phoenix Children`s Hospital fighting for his life.
"I mean some days you just didn`t know if he would make it through the night," Erica said.
Then he was transferred to Barrows Neurological Institute for therapy.
He and his family just recently returned to Belfield.
"We sure are glad to have him back," Kuntz said.
As a thank you for all the support the community has given him, he wanted to surprise crowd at a game by taking off his cougar head at half-time to show he`s back.
"Taking off your head is a taboo," Kuntz said.
However, that wasn`t the only surprise of the night. His cheerleading coach and fellow cheerleaders had one for him too. They presented him with the Lifetime Honorary Cougar Spirit Award. He`s the only one to ever receive it.
"It`s the best feeling ever," Theron said.
"The best wishes we`ve received from the community and we`re always, always going to cherish that, because when we were gone, we knew Belfield had our back," Erica said.
Theron not only worked at the Dan`s Conoco but with his father`s trucking company too, all while getting mostly A`s in school.
His parents will be sponsoring a CPR course for the community, and his cheerleading coach plans to teach it.