In his small hometown in rural Alaska, thirteen-year-old Caleb lives and breathes for hockey. “It’s more than just a game,” he says. “For me it’s a good way to get out of the house in the cold winter and have fun with friends.”
Caleb is no stranger to adversity. As a baby, he was diagnosed with third degree heart block, a condition that makes him dependent on a pacemaker to stay alive. He’s endured four surgeries and anticipates more to come.
Caleb is several hours away from the nearest hospital, but he works closely with his Anchorage cardiologist Dr. Wellman to monitor his health. “I can hook Caleb’s pacemaker up to the computer, and Dr. Wellman can check. The technology is amazing,” said Caleb’s mom Tina.
Despite his condition, Caleb and his family choose to focus on the good things in life. He loves to play goalie position for his local hockey team. And, he recently performed as the woodsman Sneezy in a school performance of Snow White.
That’s right, Caleb doesn’t let his heart condition define his life.
This winter, another good thing happened when granted a wish by Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. Caleb knew right away what he wanted to do: meet the players of his favorite hockey team, the Washington Capitals. As he thought more about the wish, he realized that he didn’t just want to meet them—no, he wanted to skate with them, especially his favorite player, goalie Braden Holtby.
Thanks to you, Caleb did just that.
In the middle of a March cold snap in Alaska, Caleb and his family received a special community send-off pizza party at 229 Parks Restaurant. Then, he flew to Washington DC.
According to his mom Tina, from start to finish, the wish made the whole family feel special. Everything from the community send-off, to the welcome at the hotel, to the limo ride to meet the Washington Capitals and the Make-A-Wish Midatlantic staff: “It was an opportunity we never could have given Caleb,” said Tina.
The wish included a lot more than just a few minutes skating with Braden. Caleb ate breakfast with Braden, and the Washington Capitals even gave him a locker, located right next to Braden’s, complete with a sign and a customized hockey jersey.
“People really care about each other in the hockey community,” said Caleb. And that has made all the difference for Caleb—at home and while interacting with the Washington Capitals for his wish.
When asked about his favorite part of the wish, Caleb said, “Skating with Braden. It was neat getting to be on the ice with my favorite player.” He added, “It was also pretty cool to eat breakfast with him and share stories and get to know him.” It turns out that Caleb and Braden had similar childhoods growing up in small towns—Caleb in Alaska and Braden in Canada.
Caleb is back home in Alaska now, but he continues to be inspired by the time he spent with his favorite hockey players. “The wish was a way to keep on going. I have this condition, but there are people out there that know about me and care about me,” he said.
Special thanks: wish-granting volunteers Pam Balster and Jodi Blakley, Make-A-Wish Midatlantic, Tara Wilson-Jones, 229 Parks Restaurant, Washington Capitals, Alaska Airlines.