Cincinnati senior Gary Clark is on top of the college basketball world right now. The 6-foot-8 power forward was the 2017-18 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, the 2017-18 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and on Sunday was voted Most Outstanding Player of the AAC tournament after the Bearcats beat Houston 56-55 in Orlando, Fla.
— The American (@American_Conf) March 11, 2018
But as great as he has been on the court for the Bearcats, Gary Clark’s greatest achievement this season might be the smile he’s given to one special fan off the court.
Natalie Youtsey is a lifelong Cincinnati fan who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in college. An avid runner, Natalie and her father have set out a goal to run a marathon in every state. But Natalie’s health started to deteriorate as the infusions she was taking to treat her M.S. were killing her. She had contracted a brain virus.
“Oh my God. It was a nightmare,” Natalie’s mother Lynn said to Fox 19 in Cincinnati. “To this day, sometimes I wake up and I’m like, this can’t be real. It was horrible. It was a nightmare every day we’d wake up.”
The virus, known as Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) is one Natalie’s father Clark says left his family hoping and praying that this wouldn’t take his daughter’s life.
“Many times I’d leave the hospital and I just was praying that my phone would not ring that night,” said Clark Miller. “I’m amazed she had the strength and pulled through.”
As prayers continued to pray for a miracle, Clark heard about Natalie’s story and wanted to do something about it.
“Knowing that Natalie was in the state she was in, I knew if my family was going through that, I know how much it would mean to spend some time with someone in her position,” Gary Clark told Fox 19.
Clark visited Miller in the hospital, bringing her a game-worn jersey, a signed basketball and a signed poster. But even more, he brought her a smile, encouragement and hope.
“It was a God-send,” Lynn Miller said. “It was exactly what we needed at that moment.”
“I can only hope that the good Lord thinks I’m half as nice a human as Gary Clark,” coach Mick Cronin said, “because Gary Clark is a good person. Anything Gary Clark does, I’m happy for.”
As Natalie continued to recover in the hospital, she wasn’t able to attend the first nine Cincinnati home games this season as a season ticket holder. But in early January, days after leaving the hospital, Natalie was back in her favorite seat, watching her favorite team.
“It’s definitely one of those things where you cherish what you’re able to do everyday because not everyone is blessed with the opportunity,” Clark said. “It’s touching to witness someone go through what she’s going through.”
Natalie’s health continues to be a struggle for her, but her dad says she’s improving each day and the family remains hopeful for the future and thankful for people like Gary Clark coming to visit.
“Gary showed me he’s not just a force on the court, but one outstanding guy off the court,” Clark Miller said. “We need more Gary Clarks.”
“Anything is possible,” said Clark. “If she puts her mind to it, she’ll be able to get back out there and run again.”
You can watch the entire story from Fox 19 on Gary and Natalie here.
Join us in praying for Natalie’s recovery and lifting her and her family up to the Lord Jesus.
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