The Dutchman Creek Gators earned a standing ovation when they hit the court Thursday against the Gold Hill Bulldogs. But the applause was not for rebounds and slam dunks.
It was for Gators players and their schoolmates who reached out to an opponent.
When the Lady Gators game ended, the middle school girls, joined by their male counterparts, stood at center court and handed over a gift for a Bulldogs player who couldn't be there to play.
The Dutchman Creek Middle School student body and staff donated $1,125 to Connor McKemey -- the Bulldogs' absent player. The Tega Cay teen suffered burns on more than 85 percent of his body after an outdoor fireplace erupted last month.
The donation, an effort spearheaded by Dutchman Creek students, earned a standing ovation from onlookers.
"I'm very proud of them," Dutchman Creek Principal Norris Williams said of the students. "They exemplified what their parents and our staff work so hard to teach them about character.
"We had a number of students who received money as Christmas gifts," Williams added. "They donated that to him."
Staff and students pooled their money together in a two-day period. Justin White, an eighth-grade student, didn't hesitate to help.
"He got burned really, really bad," White said of Connor. "I wanted to help him out. I would want someone to do the same thing for me."
Hunter Ditsch, a sixth-grade student, gave up canteen money to help.
"It was more important to help Connor than get a snack," Ditsch said. "We wanted him to have the best surgeries so we pitched in. We want him to feel good and get better."
The money is being donated to a fund set up to help Connor.
The 13-year-old has had more than a dozen surgeries and is facing a long recovery. But Friday, the students' giving spirit floored Connor's mother, Karin McKemey.
"We always hear so many negative things surrounding tweens and teens -- selfishness, the 'all about me' center of the universe age -- but this proves that kids in our community are selfless, caring and compassionate," McKemey wrote Friday in an e-mail. "Connor will be surrounded by love when he is able to return home."
McKemey also was injured in the outdoor fire a few days before Christmas at her home. Still, she is encouraged by community support and wrote that the donation "has touched our hearts."
"This tragedy has brought to light that there is a lot of goodness and compassion in people," she wrote. "Our little corner of the world is filled to the brim with prayerful and loving kids and adults!"