Here's how much Gloria Vaughn loves to watch her grandson, Kevin Hensley, play soccer: Five years ago she flipped her car on the road while driving to his high school match. When the emergency responders arrived, they found her uninjured, but asked her to have a relative come and take her home.
Disappointed but uninjured, Vaughan called her daughter -- Kevin's mother -- for a ride. When her daughter arrived, Vaughan got in the car and asked: Can't you just take me to Kevin's game?
"I enjoy watching him," Vaughan says now, "and I know he worries a bit when I'm not at his game."
Five years later, little has changed: Gloria Vaughan just wants to watch her grandson play soccer. It's a bigger challenge than it seems. Since Hensley's tournaments often take him overseas, his 74-year-old grandmother is forced to make do with inconsistent Internet feeds, and sometimes just by following the matches on Twitter.
Vaughan doesn't complain, though, because she knows what a gift it is that Hensley is able to play soccer at all. Those dreams were in serious doubt eight years ago, when a freak accident during a soccer match caused a stroke that weakened the right side of Hensley's body.
After coming home from a soccer match where he had whipped his head brutally after going up for a header, Hensley collapsed onto the floor.
His parents were out Christmas shopping at the time. When they returned home, they found their son semi-conscious on the ground, unable to coherently speak. He was 14 at the time.
Hensley was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a stroke caused by his injury at the game. The stroke hindered the motor functioning of his right side and required months of rehab and recovery, but the partial paralysis wasn't enough to stop him from finishing his high school soccer career.
He even earned a soccer scholarship to Carson-Newman University in Tennessee, but had to quit after his memory problems affected his academic standing.
"I would sit there and study for four hours at a time, and I wouldn't remember anything," Hensley says.
When he left school, it seemed like Hensley's soccer career was over -- at least from a competitive standpoint. In Memphis he found work as an assistant soccer coach for the Mid-South Football Club, and invested himself into that profession. He was blindsided earlier this year when he got a phone call from Stuart Sharp.
Sharp had just been named head coach for the U.S. Paralympic National Soccer team, and he had stumbled across Hensley's story online. The Paralympic National team is comprised of individuals who are ambulatory but have a physical challenge resulting from cerebral palsy, a traumatic brain injury, or stroke. The coach invited Hensley out to California to train with the team.
The 22-year-old leaped at the opportunity, and he hasn't looked back. With the Paralympic team, he estimates he spends about 100 days a year away from home. International tournaments have taken him to Spain, Canada and England, so far, with more trips on the horizon.
Those far-flung trips are great for getting to see the world, but they make it tough for Vaughan to keep up. At 74, long international flights are too much of a physical burden. But when she found out about her grandson's tournament in Toronto, Vaughan knew that was a possibility. Then, her senior living facility presented her with an opportunity to "make a wish."
Vaughan didn't have to think twice.
A few weeks before the tournament was to take place, Vaughan was told that her wish was granted: Brookdale Senior Living, in partnership with Wish of a Lifetime, would be paying to send her to Toronto to watch Hensley play.
"I was over-the-moon happy," Vaughan says.
Vaughan flew up and watched the U.S. Paralympic team compete in two matches. After one of the game, she was brought onto the field to meet the coaches, the team manager, and every player on the team. The group gave her an autographed flag and posed for pictures with her.
"It made me feel so special, and of course and I can't help but say the whole team earned a place in my heart," Vaughan says. "They've all got a story of their own that's so much richer than mine, because they've worked so hard to get where they are."
Hensley is quick to point out that his grandmother does know a thing or two about survival: By his count, she's survived quadruple bypass surgery, breast cancer, diabetes and back surgery.
"She's been a constant battler," Hensley says.
Vaughan has also been someone her grandson has always turned to for comfort and advice, even on his toughest days.
"From what she's been through to what I've been through, she's always been my crutch, my best friend my entire life," Hensley says. "She's always been there whenever I needed to talk about sports, about life."
After a third-place finish at the Toronto tournament Hensley's Paralympic squad looks ahead to qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics World Cup in Brazil. That journey will take the team to far-off places around the globe -- and, hopefully, back somewhere close to home.
After what she considers "the best trip of my life," Vaughn is determined: she wants to watch Hensley play in person again. Almost a month after her wish was granted, the grandmother still feels like she's living a dream.
"No one's gone and interviewed me before," she says. "Even when I turned my car over, they didn't interview me."