A Stroke, 19 Surgeries Later, Cleo’s Miracle Basketball Tourney Helping Others


By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

Most people in Cleopatra “Cleo” King-DeFreitas’ shoes would solely be looking after their health rather than concentrating on a Miracle Basketball Tournament to help underprivileged children in our community, which she has organized for this weekend at the Multipurpose Sports Complex.

Cleo, a 41-year old school teacher, prefers to focus on helping others who she feels need it more. When she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension at 35, Doctors predicted that by 40 in 2018, she would be bedridden and have a different lifestyle. The eternal optimist thought otherwise.

“I’ve had 19 surgeries, a minor stroke and Doctors gave me by 40 not to be as mobile as I am now,” Cleo who has been teaching for 16 years reflected. “The stroke was on my right side and I have a device in my head called a VP Shunt—it drains the excess fluid off my brain. The disease takes your sight and cripples you. I wasn’t supposed to be this mobile by 40 and would have had to stop teaching. I’ve had four brain surgeries in three years and Doctors said I would have succumbed to the disease.”

Last year when the mother of five turned 40, she organized a gospel concert at New Testament Church of God—to help others in need.

 “My theme is giving back and the concert was to help women in need and I also decided to bless the group MALE (Mentoring Anointed Leaders Everywhere) and gave them some money because that was something meaningful to me,” she explained. “Long story short, I helped paid some women’s rent, helped others with their bills for women who I knew for sure were in need. I signaled them out, went to them and I blessed them. After that, I decided this is something I’d do annually and every year, I’d do something differently or, if I run out of things to do, I’ll repeat some of the things I did before—but, I’m going to be giving back.” 

Her 2013 diagnosis saw her in an out of hospital and away from her love of teaching, the longest stint being sitting out the 2016-2017 school year. When Cleo, who has been teaching for 16 years returned to the classroom in 2018, she noticed that there were needy children—those who don’t have proper uniforms, those who came to school without lunch or proper books—so she decided on giving to children this year. 

Thus the weekend miracle basketball tournament. Her team includes: Sherna Robinson, Ereia Smith and Tylia Nibbs-Henly. She has already contacted the principal of the Joyce Samuel School and will reach out to other schools including Virgin Gorda, as a team is coming from there. 

“We’re going to principals/teachers about students who they know in fact are needy—their parents are less fortunate than others—we’re going to bless them with buying school uniforms and supplies they need for September, after contacting their parents, so that’s what this initiative is for.” 

The tournament has attracted: St. Croix’s Come Together, West Gunners, East, Mystics, Willful Skillful and Shut Down among others.

Admission to the games is $7 and $5 children under 12 and Sunday’s championship games, $10 adults and $5 children.