‘This image touches home’: Meet the family of a coal worker whose photo went viral during a UK basketball scrimmage.

Micheal McGuire understood he had to drive 30 minutes Saturday evening from his coal mine work to his son’s annual Kentucky basketball Blue-White scrimmage.

He and his family had no idea a picture of the couple would become viral days later.

It was McGuire’s son’s first encounter with the Wildcats, yet it will not be his last. The photo gained national attention after UK coach John Calipari shared it on his Twitter and Instagram sites, with a comment giving the family tickets to be “treated like VIPs” on a trip to Rupp Arena this season.

His family’s American dream began in a coal mine in Clarksburg, WV, therefore this photo touches home, Calipari wrote.

The game was held at Pikeville, a tiny town in Kentucky’s eastern section along the borders with Virginia and West Virginia.

Mollie McGuire, McGuire’s wife, said her husband works roughly 50 hours a week for Excel Mining, a processing facility based in Pike County in eastern Kentucky, involving numerous Saturday shifts in addition to his typical Monday-through-Friday schedule.

This year’s Blue-White scrimmage, one of UK’s largest fan events before the start of the regular season, fell on a work day for McGuire.

He was determined, though, to be among the crowd with his family.

Mollie was not in the shot, which got thousands of views when Calipari published it. But she was in the stands, cheering for the team alongside Micheal and Easton, their 3-year-old son, who was experiencing his first taste of college basketball that night.

When the men slam dunk or hit a 3 and the audience yells, he gets enthusiastic and claps his hands, Mollie McGuire said. And every time they took a timeout and put on the music, he would jump down on the floor and dance for everyone. Every time the music played, the entire section put on a performance.

The McGuire family, including their children Eason and Lynlee, has bonded through basketball, as have many other families in Kentucky. Mollie, on the other hand, claimed she and her husband hadn’t gone to a game in at least four years.

She described the weekend scrimmage as an opportunity to introduce Easton to the squad after he had shown an interest in sports. She said he recently finished his first season of tee ball and will begin his first season of basketball at the YMCA next month.

Mollie said her husband is actually from Floyd County, which was devastated by flooding this summer. The floods in eastern Kentucky caused by storms in late July killed at least 43 individuals, and organizers of Saturday’s event hoped to raise money for families touched by the catastrophe.

Attending the scrimmage and assisting people in need was a “real honor,” according to Mollie. Their family was not physically impacted by the water, however they understand many individuals in the area who were.

These lads are fantastic, she stated of the team. They’re in the right frame of mind, willing to assist others, and it’s fantastic that they’ve taken the time to come here to raise money for such a worthy cause.

At halftime of Saturday’s game at the Appalachian Wireless Area, the Wildcats presented Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear with a check for $162,450, which will go toward the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund. Calipari remarked before tipoff that the scrimmage in Pikeville was the team’s idea to help flood rescue operations, and Pikeville Fire Department Chief Johnny Cole termed the occasion “really an honor” for local citizens.

The attendance did not surprise Calipari. Fans follow the Wildcats everywhere they go, he claims.

Mollie, a former 911 dispatcher who left to care for their two young children, said she believes the focus would make Micheal feel valued. She claims she often informs her husband how important his career is to their family.

She couldn’t remain at home if it wasn’t for him being a coal miner and having such excellent, steady work that offers health insurance and money to pay their bills and money to live on, she explained. She  couldn’t remain at home with their children and accomplish all they required. It’s truly a blessing.

She stated that his wife and children are not alone in his support.

Not only does his immediate family adore him. Everyone is touched, Mollie McGuire explained. Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee are all included. Everyone. He is well-liked. And she is hoping that once he knows what’s transpired, he will feel that gratitude and affection.

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