A winning smile and a spirit that won't quit.
Those are just two of the reasons why, amid the cheers of friends and family at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Clinton, Jordan Morgan, 13, was named the 2016-17 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for Mississippi.
Jordan and his classmates ate popsicles and enjoyed cheese dip, cookies and soft drinks at the celebration that counted Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher and Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts among the attendees.
Born 11 weeks early, and weighing just 3 pounds, Jordan was given a dire prediction when his cerebral palsy was diagnosed.
Morgan, left, and Matthew Brown, best friend and classmate at Clinton Junior High, play a game of Let's Go Fishing .
“I was told he wouldn't be able to walk, feed himself or write his name,” said mother Deborah Morgan. Since then, Jordan's been proving those predictions wrong. Not only does he walk and even run, sometimes on his own and sometimes with canes, he dances and, with the help of a walker, roller skates.
Jordan not only can feed himself, he enjoys cooking, including his favorite top-secret recipe, “Goo Sauce,” a green concoction that can be a dip or a sandwich topping. He's also done more than just learn to write his name. Jordan, a seventh-grader at Clinton Junior High, keeps up with an active academic schedule and sings in the school choir.
Morgan, back center, listens to his coach during an pre-game huddle of the Mississippi Wheelcats.
He also swims, is a member of the Mississippi Wheelcats wheelchair basketball team, plays the piano and one day wants to be a producer of movies and music videos.
“I'm just like everyone else,” Jordan said. “I just walk differently.”
It's that message of inclusion of those with disabilities and of not setting limits on what can be achieved that Jordan wants to voice as the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion for Mississippi. “Kids should be allowed to work to their talent and abilities and shouldn't be judged by people based on what they see,” he said.
A trio of Children's Miracle Network Champions for Mississippi, 2014-15 Champion Jacob Partlow, 2016-17 Champion Jordan Morgan and 2015-16 Champion Hannah Dunaway, were on hand for this year's RebelTHON, a fundraising dance marathon and celebration at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Coming to Batson Children's Hospital, Deborah Morgan said, was a dose of hope. “It gave us an indication of 'What if?' We saw a pediatric neurologist, 'Dr. Veda' (Dr. V.V. Vedanarayanan), who told us that Jordan is extremely bright. He said, 'You can teach him anything. He'll walk - it just won't be like everyone else does.'
“Batson Children's Hospital has been such a blessing for us,” she said. “We've learned so much from them. I don't know where we'd be without them.”
Jordan will make a great ambassador for the state's only Children's Miracle Network Hospital, said Dr. Benji Dillard, professor of pediatrics at UMMC. He's known Jordan for years through Camp Dream Street, a Utica-based summer camp for children with physical disabilities.
Morgan smiles with Dr. Benji Dillard, professor of pediatrics at UMMC, and his son Jacob.
“Jordan is never without a smile,” Dillard said. “He's always got the energy to engage people and make them laugh, and he's always got a story to tell. When we're at camp, Jordan is the camper everyone wants to be around.”
John Clark Packer, Children's Miracle Network coordinator at UMMC, said Jordan will be a strong advocate for patients and Children's Miracle Network hospitals. “Jordan was chosen as our 2016-17 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion because of his brave fight and his uplifting spirit. He always has a smile on his face and never meets a stranger. We felt that he would be a great ambassador for Mississippi and Batson Children's Hospital because of the way he is able to communicate with people and generally put everyone around him in a good mood.”
Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts shares a conversation with Morgan.
Jordan will spread his message outside the state as well. “The Champion gets the opportunity to represent the state for the year along with trips with the Champions from the other states and Canada in Washington, D.C., and Walt Disney World in Orlando,” Packer said. “It is important to children's health because it gets the word out, not just about all the diseases there are, but also about the life-saving procedures and surgeries that these hospitals perform on a daily basis.”
Dabbing away tears of joy during Jordan's celebration Wednesday was his grandmother, Evelyn Morgan, of Columbus. “This just does my heart good,” she said. “The Lord is still in the blessing business. Jordan has gained strength through all he has faced. This is wonderful.”
Also cheering on Jordan during his Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion year is Corinne Sampson, a Batson Children's Hospital physical therapist who has watched him progress over the years.
“Working with Jordan has been a joy and a privilege,” she said. “He is inspiring and fun, an amazingly bright young man who works so hard to be sure that his physical limitations don't limit him. Jordan has helped me teach my students and devise ways to make therapy more fun, kept me on my toes, made me laugh, and both challenged and inspired me with his determination and his dreams. He is, indeed, a champion!”