One morning reading a local newspaper produced a special friendship for North Carolina Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton.
Two years ago, Moton came across an article about the Dance Like No One Is Watching Gala. It was an event planned for people who, because of disabilities or illnesses, couldn’t attend their high school proms.
This hit home with Moton because he never went to the prom when he attended Enloe High School in Raleigh, N.C., where he was a standout prep basketball player. “I couldn’t get a date back then, and I didn’t have any money,” said Moton, who is now the coach at his alma mater, North Carolina Central, where he ranks third all-time in scoring with 1,714 points. “I called the number to see what it was all about.”
While talking to organizers of the event, Moton decided he wanted to do more than volunteer to run the event. So he was given contact information for Leah Ward, who was going to attend the dance.
Ward has a genetic condition known as Williams syndrome, which is characterized by a wide range of medical conditions that can include cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and learning disabilities, but also contrasting traits such as striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.
Moton, who is married with two children, asked if Ward would mind being his date for the dance.Ward agreed, and Moton made sure it would be a memorable night for his new friend.
During their telephone conversations, Moton learned that Ward’s favorite color was pink. On the night of the gala, Moton arrived in a pink limousine, presented Ward with a Pink Floyd double CD and brought her posters and a basketball from Duke, which was her favorite team to follow.
Of course, Moton brought gear from North Carolina Central, which, like Duke, is located in Durham, N.C.
“Leah was a rock star when we pulled up to the dance in the pink limousine,” said Moton, who graduated from North Carolina Central with a degree in recreational administration in 1996. “We danced the night away.” After the gala, Moton told Ward that he hoped she wouldn’t dump their friendship, so the two made a pact to speak on Sundays. A genuine bond has developed.
During their conversations, Moton tells her about the state of his team or how things are going with his family. He also checks to see if Ward is taking her medication and eating the right foods.
“She’ll tell me about her day, or about the volunteer work she does,” said Moton, who is entering his fourth season with the Eagles. “She also tells me about the latest music that she likes.”
On the days Ward can attend an Eagles game, Moton has let her address his team. “We make sure to keep our designated
time to talk to each other,” said Moton, who led North Carolina Central to a 22-9 record last season. “She was telling me that she knew I was busy, but I told her it didn’t matter, and that I need friends, too.”
Now, he has one that helps him keep his life in perspective.