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Hoops For A Cause: Clay Isakson, son of Providence men's basketball coach, fighting respiratory illness

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 10, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Providence men’s basketball coach J.C. Isakson is facing the unthinkable. His seven month old son, Clay, is experiencing health complications due to neonatal Marfan syndrome.

Earlier this week, Clay was life-flighted to the Children's Hospital Colorado. While Isakson is away from the Argos to support his family, the Argos and the Frontier Conference are doing their part to support the Isakson family through the annual “Hoops For A Cause” fundraiser.

“We’re hoping to raise some money to help cover the cost of their medical expenses as well as their travel, meals, and stay because it’s going to be a long process for him while he’s recovering and the parents are going to need help financially to be able to get through this,” said Providence women’s basketball coach Bill Himmelberg.

Neonatal Marfan syndrome affects the development of connective tissue in the heart, lungs, eyes, and muscular skeletal system. Clay is one of only 35 patients with this syndrome in the United States, and has dealt with respiratory issues since birth.

He suffered immediate and difficult complications after birth and spent 22 days in the NICU. Clay will need to visit hospitals in both California and Colorado at least twice a year for the foreseeable future.

“It’s heart wrenching to see your kid get sick or get a cold or just have a fever and that’s something they worry about every day. They worry about him waking up in the morning, every morning and being able to live that day,” said Himmelberg.

“This is just something that no parent should ever have to go through and you would never want to see your kid go through what Clay has gone through, but you would also never want to see Bailey or J.C. go through what they have gone through as parents. It’s heart wrenching every day.”

Isakson has times when he needs to step away from the team to be with his family, but his staff and players have stepped in to keep the program on track.

“We just got his back. We got 15 guys that know the situation. They know that at the drop of the pin, J.C. can be gone and he has dad duties, and we also know that when he is here, he is engaged and he’s giving everything he’s got to the team so we got to give that back to him and support him any way we can,” said men’s assistant coach Shyke Smalls.

Other Providence staff members have helped during the process in many ways, including the women’s assistant coaches watching J.C.’s two other children BlaykLinn and Clay’s twin brother Crue. The support also reaches outside of Providence as other Frontier schools are looking to put on fundraisers to help the cause.

“The Frontier Conference is a unique conference. It’s a Montana conference. It’s a conference that everybody knows everybody and Montana is a small place and they all care more for themselves than just about winning games and trying to win the conference,” said Himmelberg. “Their are a lot more special things, a lot more important things in life than winning a basketball game and I think the coaches in the Frontier Conference get that”

Clay’s middle name is Kobe, and Isakson has dubbed his son the “Marfan Mamba” after the late Kobe Bryant. Just like his namesake, Clay will continue to fight with his family by his side.

You can click the link below to donate to the Isakson family or take your donations directly to the University of Providence.

Click here to donate to the Isakson family.