Sometimes, the very best bonds begin with a simple hello. Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and age proves to be just a number. Despite any barriers or obstacles, the strongest of friends prevail above all.
At Mississippi State, a friendship was formed in an unlikely scenario and circumstance. Fifth-year senior football player Donald Gray found a special connection in the form of a little fan who’s supported him since she was a baby. Jesse Sloan, a then three-year-old girl, had been attending Mississippi State’s games all her young life, waiting after the games to give high fives, or “five fives” as she would call it. During the 2015/16 season, one player, in particular, had noticed her, said she was cute, and kindly asked for a hug. That player was Donald Gray.
The toddler courageously reached out and gave him a hug. It was then that the bond between the two had been ignited. “The love I have felt from Jesse Sloan and Donald Gray’s friendship is amazing,” Jesse’s mother wrote on Facebook. “She talked about him daily, would not leave a game until she saw him”. Jesse was quick to claim Donald as her favourite person, and nothing would keep her away from him. He referred to her as his “best girl”, forming a one-of-a-kind relationship that is truly unique.
With all beginnings, unfortunately, come endings, and what followed this unbreakable bond was an emotional goodbye that would leave not a dry eye in sight.
Although everyone knew this day would come, it was certainly not expected to be this difficult. Donald had an injury that would require surgery, bringing his season and campaign to an end. What started out as a simple gesture between two strangers, became a departure that was tough to handle.
Jesse arrived bearing gifts, bringing Donald a stuffed bulldog as a graduation present, and more of the priceless hugs that brought them together. Donald happily signed a shirt for her, and held her in his arms for one last time, before the two friends had to finally depart.
The Mississippi State senior said that his interactions with Jesse “changed his life”. Such a formidable bond can really have a lasting impact on one’s life, and memories that will surely be carried on. The two made a pinky promise that they would remain best friends. Jesse’s family said that no matter what was in store for his future, they would undoubtedly support him. “He has forever changed my family and my heart,” her mother said, proving that the impact stretched further beyond little Jesse. “May the tears fall, as this last chapter closes”.
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