NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Not all superheroes wear capes, but there's no doubt that Morgan Rogers must be one of them for what she's overcome.
Morgan met the Belmont women's basketball in 2015 through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which pairs up children with pediatric brain tumors with athletic teams. Four years after being introduced to the Bruins and five after being diagnosed with a Pilocytic Astrocytoma brain tumor, Rogers and her family will be back in attendance for Saturday's basketball game against Eastern Kentucky.
She and the Rogers clan – mom Michelle, dad Doug and her three siblings Gavin, Kira and Harper – will be the Bruins' guests of honor for "Superhero Day" at the Curb Event Center. Ten-year-old Morgan is once again stable and healthy, for the first time in years living her normal life.
"I've known her for the four years I've been here and she's one of the most inspirational and strongest kids I've ever seen in my life," said Darby Maggard, a senior on the Belmont women's basketball team. "She has such a positive attitude and such a light about her. She's incredible."
Morgan first joined the Bruins for a practice in January 2015, palling around with the team, getting a personalized tour of the Curb Event Center and locker room, and enjoying a big win over Jacksonville State that year. She last attended a game two seasons ago near the end of her second round of chemotherapy.
It's been a long road for Morgan and her family since her diagnosis in March 2014, but Morgan hasn't had to endure the draining rigors of her treatment in more than a year now. The tumor is still there, but it's no longer growing and is classified as benign as opposed to cancerous malignant. Because of its location on Morgan's brain stem though, making it high risk, doctors continue to keep an eye on it with regular checkups and MRI scans.
These days Morgan is just like any other fourth grader. She's full of energy, curiosity and throws herself into after-school activities. Morgan is a Girl Scout and competitive cheerleader, something she's enjoyed since she was 3 but had to put on hiatus during her treatments.
Michelle said returning to normal after being lost in "cancer world" can be difficult at times, "but we're very grateful for the good days, that we don't have to go to the clinic for chemo every week. In between those MRIs every three months, Morgan lives a very full life and we're back to being a normal family again."
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation is a nation-wide non-profit that hopes to give children and their families another layer of love, friendship and support while they battle pediatric cancer. In Morgan's case, it brought her together with the Bruins, who have continued to keep tabs on her over the years. Members of the team have participated in annual Walk For Wishes campaigns for Morgan as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and created an everlasting bond with the young Bruin fan.
"Some of the girls that are seniors now were freshmen when we first starting meeting with them with Morgan," said Michelle, whose family lives in Hendersonville. "It's been so exciting to watch them grow through the years and it'll be so nice to see them again."
Tip off against Eastern Kentucky for Belmont's "Superhero Day" is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday.