Home for the holidays means different things to different people. For Estell Smith and her great grandson Don’yae Baylor-Carroll it means everything.
Don’yae is a senior guard at the Milton Hershey School. His head coach Mark Zerbe can’t speak highly enough about his star player.
“I would hope every coach sometime in their career would get a chance to work with someone like Don’yae,” Zerbe says. “He’s like a light bulb, no matter how my day is going, he comes in the gym everything gets brighter.”
When Don’yae was born, Estell took custody of him as well as his three older brothers. Estell was battling kidney cancer at the time and Don’yae’s older brothers were starting to get in trouble in Estell’s Harrisburg neighborhood. Milton Hershey offers a cost-free private education for income eligible families. She decided to send them all to the school for a chance at a better life and a safer home. Don’yae knows how much his grandma has sacrificed.
“She always put me first and my brothers first before herself,” Don’yae says.
Don’yae started at Milton Hershey in Kindergarten. He’s been playing basketball since Middle School, but for health reasons, Estell has never been able to see him play….until December 8th 2017.
“I tried to get her out to a couple games and she said her legs were hurting and she wasn’t feeling so well,” Don’yae says.
But this game was different, Don’yae was just 24 points shy of 1000 in his career. Estell made it to the game, Don’yae knew he couldn’t waste the opportunity.
That day was something special,” he says. “So going into the game I had to turn on a whole different mindset.”
In the third quarter Don’yae was just 2 points away then he got his shot.
“When I was open at the three I stopped and paused for a little bit,” he remembers.
After a dramatic pause Don’yae hit the shot, just has he had done hundreds of times before only this one meant a whole lot more.
“That was just a big dream came true,” Estell says with a smile. “Because I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play that well.”
For Don’yae and his Grandma Christmas came early, but the real gift was yet to be delivered.
At Christmas Don’yae comes home for holiday break. A time for him and his brothers to all go back and see the woman who raised them.
“I appreciate it all like I always have her in the back of my mind,” Don’yae says. “She really drives me to do what I got to do to provide for her one day.”
“You look back it was all worth it,” Estell says. “I would have to do it all over again… I would.”