At odd times this fall, when the pain wasn’t completely intolerable and the fatigue didn’t wear him all the way down, 7-year-old Bo Macan would sit in the stands at a Shawnee Mission North football game and cheer with his mom.
Sports have never really been Bo’s thing, despite his family’s athletic inclination. His mother, Carolyn, played softball in the 1990s at SM North; his dad, John, basketball. Leksi, Bo’s 16-year-old sister, plays softball and is a cheerleader there. And his brother, Johnny, is a freshman football and basketball player.
Bo enjoys the outdoors as much as any of them — but that’s about where their similarities end.
Since birth, Bo has battled a genetic disorder so rare a doctor at the National Institutes of Health named it “Bo Syndrome.” His twin sister, Brooklynn, was born without it.
Among other things, the condition includes Type I diabetes, growth hormone deficiency, chronic lung disease and epilepsy. Arthritis plagues Bo often enough that he spends most of every day lying down.
“On a good month, we’re only in the hospital (for treatment) for a day,” Carolyn Macan said. “On a bad month, we’re there for five.”
On this fall evening at SM North Stadium, Bo could withstand it all.
He made his way down to the field and let himself be hoisted onto the shoulders of SM North running back Reese Sila and junior wide receiver Noah Laird, both of whom are close family friends.
“He was just on cloud nine,” Carolyn Macan said. “Typically he’s not a big fan of crowds. Here’s all these boys jumping and excited around him. I think he thought, ‘This is so cool.’
As pictures were taken and Bo’s face spread with a wide grin, it didn’t matter then that SM North had one victory to its name or that the Indians were about to face championship contender Shawnee Mission East in what became a 59-6 drubbing on Sept. 29.
Laird and Sila were focused on Bo, as they have been during every football game they played this season.
Spurred by an idea Laird’s father pitched during the summer, Laird and Sila dedicated their seasons to raising money for Bo. They encouraged patrons to donate to “Yards for Super Bo” in support of any yards, touchdowns or tackles they recorded.
“When you have the ball in your hands now, there’s more of a meaning to the game,” said Sila, a senior. “It’s not just stats now. It’s to raise money for a meaningful cause and bettering somebody other than yourself.”
The returns have not been bountiful. SM North struggled through eight weeks of the regular season and was outscored 346-119. Laird and Sila said they accounted for about 300 yards each in that span.
Still, concentrating on Bo despite their team’s struggles has helped each of them keep perspective.
“I feel like we’re accomplishing more,” Laird said. “Even if we don’t come out on top in the games, we know that we gave it our all to help somebody else. That helps us and keeps us moving forward to the next game.”
The next won’t be easy. SM North (1-7) is the 13th seed in the Class 6A playoffs, and will play against fourth-seeded Blue Valley North (4-4), a team that has outscored opponents 260-169, in the first round on Friday at the Switzer Activity Complex in Overland Park.
The odds are stacked against Laird, Sila and SM North.
But that’s nothing Bo — and the community that has long supported him — isn’t already used to handling.
“I would like to see him grow up and just be happy,” Sila said. “I just wanted to do anything I can to help out. That’s what I wanted to do. And this is an easy way to do it.”
How to help
▪ On Saturday, in honor of Bo and his twin sister Brooklynn’s eighth birthday, the SM North softball team will host the Bombs for Bo home run and wiffle ball tournament. For more information, go to facebook.com/macanithappen.
▪ You can donate to Laird and Sila’s “Yards for Super Bo” campaign at facebook.com/yardsforsuperbo.