COOPERSVILLE, Mich. -- After spending years watching games and sitting on the sidelines, 13-year-old BJ Young will finally have the opportunity to take the field in his first ever football game Saturday. Young, who suffers from Mitochondrial disease, was never expected to be able to run, much less catch a football in his lifetime.
"He's very tough, very stubborn," explained Duane Young, BJ's dad. "From day one, he wasn't supposed to stay awake and he started staying awake. He wasn't supposed to eat, he started to eat...He's an inspiration to us."
BJ spent most of his first year of life sick and fighting. Finally, he was diagnosed with Mitochondrial disease, complex 1 and 3. The debilitating condition causes fatigue, targets and damages his lungs. It also causes muscle cramps, sight/hearing issues, not to mention the disease causes heart murmurs and may even lead to heart failure. Mitochondrial Disease has a 20 percent survival rate and there is no cure.
At 13, BJ continues to beat the odds and Saturday will mark another milestone. He's been given the opportunity to suit up in a Broncos uniform and play during a Rocket Football game at Coopersville High School.
""We'll stop play and he'll come into the game, we'll snap the ball and he'll take off. It's going to be great," said Matt McKinnon, the Recreation Director for the city of Coopersville. "He deserves it. He's a great kid."
The effort, dubbed "Operation End Zone" is expected to take place between 12:45-1:00pm. The game is set to begin at noon.
"I think it's going to just be incredible to be a part of and be able to watch. It means a lot to us," said Amy Young, BJ's mother. "For a child that wasn't supposed to see one, wasn't supposed to see three, and now we're celebrating his teenage years, we're very fortunate."
The public is invited to come out and pack the stands to cheer on BJ as he celebrates his special moment at the high school stadium, located at 198 East St. in Coopersville.