At most Circle home basketball games the boys team has a slightly different tradition than most as their starting lineup is announced and takes the court. The boys not only shake hands with opposing team members and greet students and teachers lined up along the sideline, they also greet sophomore starter Cal Hartley's sisters, Claire and Lola, in the stands.

At most Circle home basketball games the boys team has a slightly different tradition than most as their starting lineup is announced and takes the court. The boys not only shake hands with opposing team members and greet students and teachers lined up along the sideline, they also greet sophomore starter Cal Hartley's sisters, Claire and Lola, in the stands.

Claire, 14, and Lola, 5, both suffer from microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than that of other children. The condition is often accompanied with developmental issues.

That makes the starting lineup an emotional time for their mother, Gwen, and father, Scott.

"It's a tear jerker for me pretty much every game when they come over. It's just really special that they think enough of the girls to do that," Gwen said.

The tradition started this season after some of the boys played in MAYB tournaments together during the summer. Gwen and Scott joked about including the girls in the lineup. The boys took it to heart and made it happen.

That's something Scott said is noble of the team to do, forgetting about their own issues to make a difference, even if they may not realize it.

"So much of the time kids with special needs are kind of left out, so it's a pretty neat deal... For them to put everything aside and include the girls is just really cool," Scott said.

"I'm touched that they want to do it, and they want to include the girls," Gwen added.

Born July 25, 2001 Claire was diagnosed with microcephaly with simplified gyral patterns 3 1/2 months later. She wasn't expected to survive a year.

A specialist in Chicago laid down the options for Scott and Gwen, informing them of the medications she would need and how she would be in and out of the hospital for the rest of her life. That didn't sit well with the Hartleys.

After the doctor left the room, they said, "Well if it's gonna happen the way he's telling us to do it, then we're going to do it completely different."

They started focusing on nutrition for Claire and providing her with a healthy diet to control what they could and taking an alternative medical route.

"I don't have any control whatsoever about what a medication will do for my kids, but I have trialed and errored, we both have, so many things with the girls since they were little and some of it we've stuck with and some of it we did for a while and quit doing and didn't feel like it was effective," Gwen said.

Obviously she's doing pretty well, Scott said, "She's the healthiest one of us by far."

When Scott and Gwen decided they wanted to have another child they were told there would be a 25 percent chance for recurrence. They decided the risk was worth it and on April 28, 2006 Lola was brought into their lives.

Lola was diagnosed before she was born, initially devastating her parents. That soon passed.

"We knew the immense joy that Claire brought to our family, and we had no doubt that Lola would enrich our lives beyond belief as well," Gwen said in her blog.

Doctors told them their options for the rest of the pregnancy, including terminating the pregnancy. At 7 years old, Cal, a child wise beyond his years after experiencing life with Claire, gave his take.

"I remember talking to him about it and I told him there's a chance your sister might not make it. There's a chance that she may not be able to survive," Gwen said. "Some doctors don't even know if we should continue to have her in my tummy... and he goes 'Mom, I just want to know her, even if it's for like a day,' Who says that at 7?"

That was exactly what Gwen and Scott needed to hear.

Both girls have had some tough moments in their young lives. But they're strong.

"They've both been through numerous scary times and times that we thought we'd lose both of them and they pulled through and, you know, we knew that they were strong and prayed that it wasn't their time," Gwen said.

After Claire was born, Gwen began blogging her experiences as a way to talk about her emotions and journal the girls lives. Since then, people from around the globe have visited her site and reached out for her help.

"It's just been really cool to know that there are other people that get it too," she said. "They've been a huge support for me as well. I mean, we all have our down days, and it's nice to be able to lean on somebody else who understands and can pick you back up when you need it."

Gwen said sharing their experiences was scary at first. She's a private person and struggled with how much of the girls' lives she wanted to make public. She wasn't sure what criticisms she would get and if documenting their experiences would make a difference.

"Why would my story be any better to tell than anybody else's?" Gwen said.

With as many people as her blog has impacted, the girls themselves have impacted more. Including Gwen and Scott.

"It's miraculous almost what kind of impact they have on peoples lives and just once people open up their minds and open up their hearts and realize that they are just amazing kids that it changes a lot of people," Scott said. "I'm definitely changed for sure. I'm a way better person than I was before but I would have had no idea until they came into my life that that would happen."

Having his sisters around has given Cal a really good understanding of life as well.

At 16 years old he has had to deal with a lot more than most children his age. He has had to handle the girls going into and coming out of surgeries but even at a young age had good perspective and asked a lot of questions, Gwen said.

He loves his sisters and is close to both of them, even putting their initials on his basketball shoes.

The Hartley's know Claire and Lola aren't likely to always defy the odds though. But that doesn't mean they won't cherish having them in their lives for as long as they can.

"It's never going to be long enough, you know, when that happens, but we're just so glad we have them," Gwen said.