INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Trampoline dodgeball is a game that isn’t taken too seriously.
“We dress up like Ninja Turtles and it’s about as serious as that can be,” said Thomas Hopkins, who plays on an Indianapolis team known as The Shell Shockers.
Though they like to have fun, the Shell Shockers are playing for a very serious cause. The team is hoping to qualify and win a national Ultimate Dodgeball tournament in order to help a 3-year-old boy pay for a kidney transplant.
Elijah Hyde was born with kidney failure, and for more than a year, he has been undergoing dialysis until he’s big enough for a transplant.
“We come to Riley (Hospital for Children at IU Health) three days a week,” said Emily Hyde, Elijah’s mother. “It’s pretty much consumed our life.”
“I just think he’s the greatest thing in the world,” Hopkins said. “He’s a little fighter and he’s got a ton of energy for a kid in his situation.”
Hopkins is Elijah’s uncle and one of his biggest fundraisers. He’s helped raise hundreds for Elijah’s medical expenses online. Once his Shell Shockers teammates found out about it, they decided to get involved.
“They decided, without me knowing, that if we make it out to Vegas, they’re going to donate any of our winning to him,” Hopkins said.
The Shell Shockers could win up to $50,000 if they win the national tournament. The team made it to nationals last year and this year they won another regional tournament at the Indianapolis Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, but in order to get back, they have to generate enough fan votes on Facebook.
“It’s going to help an awful lot,” Hopkins said. “I just think that it’d be great if Indianapolis, you know, helped us out with the vote and sent us out there and we represented the city.”
But Thomas isn’t just playing dodgeball for Elijah. Once the team is knocked out of the tournament, he’s actually donating his nephew his kidney.
“If we get out there and finish up Sunday, I’ll be flying back on Monday doing the Pre-op,” Hopkins said. “Wednesday will be the surgery and he’ll be getting one of my kidneys.”
“I believe the transplant has actually been pushed back a week so they can play,” Emily Hyde said.
Emily says nobody, including Elijah, would have it any other way.
“I just can’t believe it,” Emily Hyde said. “I never would have expected him to not only be willing to donate, you know, basically give him a second chance at life, but then also just do all the things he’s doing to go above and beyond.”