During the course of his three and a half years of intensive chemotherapy treatments, Brayden made a wish to meet his longtime hero, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
The day Brayden had been waiting for arrived in early December, 2013.
Brayden was welcomed at the Seahawks' practice facility with a giant welcome banner, a customized Seahawks' jersey and a locker next to Russell Wilson's personalized just for him.
But it was Wilson—not the Seahawks' swag—that brought out Brayden's smile.
As a parent, that is one of the greatest things you can hope to hear.”
– Michelle, Brayden's mom
When Brayden met Wilson that morning, and nervously began asking him the questions he had prepared and showed him the book he wrote for him in school, Wilson reaffirmed all the reasons Brayden sees him as a hero. "Brayden has told us many times that Russell Wilson and the Seahawks made him feel like the most important boy in the world," said Brayden's mom, Michelle. "As a parent, that is one of the greatest things you can hope to hear."
But Brayden's wish was just getting started.
Later, on that cold December night, after tens of thousands of fans rose to their feet at the Seahawks winning game against the Saints, Wilson was just finishing an ESPN interview when he saw Brayden across the field. In this moment—in an empty stadium with the star quarterback who could have been anywhere celebrating his winning game—Russell Wilson decided to take a walk with Brayden.
"How do you say enough about this man who took the time to include my son in this magical moment?" said Michelle. "He was still dressed from the game, was probably cold, still had a press conference to do, yet he took the time not only to acknowledge our son, but to talk to him about the game and include him in this moment. There are no words that can describe this and to say 'thank you' falls extremely short."
This was the moment that changed Brayden's life.
"Brayden talks about this moment every day—the favorite part of his wish," she said. "The impact the Seattle Seahawks, and specifically Russell Wilson, had on Brayden's life is immeasurable."
The Seahawks' field photographer snapped a photo of Brayden and Wilson's walk. According to Brayden's dad, Paul, this photo "captured our son at the absolute happiest moment of his life and we will cherish it forever," he said.
After his wish experience, Brayden and his family saw Make-A-Wish in a different light. "Before our trip, we knew that Make-A-Wish was an amazing organization that made dreams come true; however, we had no idea that it would be life-altering," said Michelle. "It was as if Make-A-Wish was a part of our family and knew Brayden his whole life. What Make-A-Wish does for kids like Brayden is truly magical and cannot be duplicated by anyone or any organization."
You don't need to be a star quarterback to be a hero. Did you know that every year one in four seriously-ill children in our community does not receive a wish due to a lack of funding? You have the power to give the gift of a life-changing moment to a child like Brayden.
Special thanks: Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, Sandy Gregory, Seattle Seahawks, Make-A-Wish Wisconsin and Rod Mar Photography