Social Circle graduate, 16, to play wheelchair basketball at University of Illinois

Mckayla Jones will be heading to the University of Illinois to play wheelchair basketball after graduating from Social Circle High School next month. The University of Illinois shared the signing on its Facebook page on April 13.

McKayla Jones. Contributed photo

Mckayla, who will be 16 when she graduates, suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident when she was 3, but she hasn’t let that hold her back from achieving her dreams says her mother, Hope Jones.

“She has been playing competitively for 4 years. University of Illinois was Mckayla first pick because they are leading the way for disability athletes,” Jones said. “As Mckayla’s mom it was always very important to me to treat Mckayla like she could accomplish anything her heart desired. She climbed Stone Mountain a few months ago. After the car accident in 2004 left Mckayla with a spinal cord injury, I thought her dreams wouldn’t come to reality.”

But that was not the case. Jones says her daughter is a “very bright young lady with an amazing future ahead of her.” It was not always easy for Jones either after being widowed and left to raise three children. The family may be remembered from The Well, a healthy fast food restaurant that opened in Monroe for a brief stint a few years back. It closed when Jones needed to take a job that provided health insurance. She said she is now focused on being a mom to her three children.

“As a single mom it hasn’t been easy. The team that Mcksyls was with demand a lot money, time and travel but it was a sacrifice that I knew as a family we had to do,” Jones said.

When Mckayla climbed Stone Mountain last year, her mother was right there with her, helping carry the wheelchair when needed.

“She pushed in areas that she could and I carried the chair in others. On the last leg, where it was very steep, three men who were there climbing helped. It was an emotional day for sure,” Jones said, going on to share a post she made on Facebook the day after the climb. “So many different emotions went into yesterday…a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Mckayla was interview at the top…they ask her why she wanted to do it. Her response was, ‘I just wanted to climb Stone Mountain.’
She reached the top with everyone cheering and thanking her for who she is…if you know Mckayla that made her real uncomfortable. Everyone was taking pictures she said very quietly ‘mom I’m not a national monument.’ I pray one day she will see how amazing she truly is. Just want to add this was probably the best and the worst feeling as her mom…seeing her struggle, but proud at the same time.”
And now, with the scholarship to the University of Illinois, Mckayla will soon be heading off on a new adventure and another one that her mother is facing with both trepidation, but incredible pride.
“I’m going to miss her so much but this is an amazing opportunity that most kids never get,” Jones said.

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