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Oklahoma City Thunder: Making memories for a Nebraska family

by Berry Tramel Published: March 2, 2014

Eric Swanson got the call on the drive down from Nebraska. Someone back home had called the Thunder with the Swansons’ story.

Eric and Kelly Jo were en route from Norfolk, Neb., to Oklahoma City for the Thunder-Heat game on Feb. 20. Their 7-year-old son, Chase, is a big Kevin Durant fan. So the Swansons decided to take Chase to a game.

The Swansons are trying to make memories, because you never know how much time is left. Kelly Jo has been diagnosed with sarcoma, and the cancer is serious.

The Thunder heard the story, called Eric on the road and arranged for the family to get to the game early.

So 90 minutes before tipoff, there sat the Swansons courtside. They met Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones and Hasheem Thabeet. Serge Ibaka came by and signed an autograph. And Durant stopped by for a chat and even draped his jersey over Chase.

“It was pretty awesome,” Eric said.

Chase still was talking about the trip a week later. With family, with friends, with strangers at the gas station. Anyone who would listen.

Chase is a typical 7-year-old. Not overly quotable. But he did allow that he is partial to Durant because “I like his dunks.”

“Because he’s awesome,” Kelly Jo chimed in.

The Thunder had a wheelchair for Kelly Jo, who has had surgery on her leg to remove a tumor. She can get around some, but fatigue sets in.

The trip wasn’t easy, but Kelly Jo was a trooper. The Swansons drove to Wednesday the day before the game, drove on to Oklahoma City on game day, then returned home the day after.

Everything was fine “til the end,” Eric said. “We were about 50-60 miles away from home, she had a little bit of pain, actually a lot of pain issues. Other than that, it went without a hitch.”

Eric admitted that times can get tough. “We’ve got our days,” he said, “but we’ve got a really good community.”

Norfolk’s a town of about 25,000. The nurses Kelly Jo worked with have supplied steady meals and help clean the house. Kelly Jo’s family and friends have provided a ton of support.

They are trying to cram in a lot of living. Kelly Jo’s diagnosis came three days before they were to leave for a trip to DisneyWorld. They went on the trip. Eric said, “The doctors said we better go.”

The next time you make a list of the benefits of the NBA in Oklahoma City, don’t forget to write down this. Memory-making.

“Absolutely amazing,” Eric Swanson said. “Never will forget it.”

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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