Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic teamed up with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation to grant CJ's wish of attending Redskins game in person at FedExField on Sunday, December 28, 2014.
CJ's wish was pretty simple: attend his first Washington Redskins game with nice seats.
On Sunday, he got way more than he expected.
Arriving outside of FedExField in the morning, CJ, along with his father and uncle, met with Make-A-Wish® Mid-Atlantic and the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation (WRCF) team for a whirlwind tour throughout the stadium before the Redskins-Cowboys game.
He soaked up every moment.
In November 2010, CJ, a huge Redskins fan from King William, Va., was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma and had to battle through rigorous treatment for his brain cancer. Now, he is stable, doing well and can check off an incredible experience watching his favorite team live.
After entering the stadium through the player's tunnel, CJ walked around the concourse, taking in the view of the field for his first time. Each stop warranted photos and chances to greet Redskins employees and personnel, all commenting on his strong handshake.
Before CJ went up to a luxury suite – his seats, with free food, for the entire game – he stopped by WRCF's 50/50 Raffle headquarters to rally Make-A-Wish volunteers selling tickets for the 50/50 raffle, raising funds to grant more wishes in the D.C. metro area. He high-fived everyone and then it was back down to the sidelines.
Walking onto the field for the first time, CJ paused for photos in the end zone and at mid-field. He played catch with an NFL-sized football. He shook hands and chatted with Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, President and General Manager Bruce Allen, legendary head coach Joe Gibbs, quarterback Colt McCoy and running back Alfred Morris, just to name a few.
He walked the perimeter of the field and tried on legendary wide receiver Gary Clark's Super Bowl ring. He was even interviewed on a local news station pregame show.
"It's been incredible," said Evanka Weerasinghe, a wish coordinator from Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic who accompanied CJ on his wish. "It's not at all what I imagined. It's definitely not what he imagined."
Indeed, CJ's experience was filled with surprises but he never seemed overwhelmed, just extremely happy. He fist bumped safety Ryan Clark during warm-ups and he expressed his love for linebacker and favorite player Ryan Kerrigan, all while watching quarterback Robert Griffin III throw passes feet away.
"He [seemed] to be really enjoying it," Weerasinghe said. "The Redskins have done an amazing job. I can't speak any better about it. It's been incredible."
Maybe the most spectacular moment of the day came following halftime. CJ, dressed in a personalized burgundy #1 jersey, was selected to run onto the field after the kick-off to pick up the tee from the field. When asked to do so beforehand, his eyes lit up. As he stood on the sidelines waiting for his moment to pick up the kicking tee, Ryan Kerrigan stopped by to say hello, moments later the second half kick-off happened and CJ ran onto the field and waved to the crowd.
"Every wish is different and every wish affects the families in so many different ways," Weerasinghe said. "CJ's uncle and father seem to be having just as an amazing time. It's all about CJ but it's also about the families, who have to go through whatever their child is going through. If we're making them happy, it's a great thing."
After a full day, Make-a-Wish volunteers sold more than 50,000 tickets for the 50/50 Raffle. The jackpot ended with an impressive $33,355 total, the highest amount of the season.
Funds raised in the 50/50 will help Make-A-Wish Mid Atlantic grant more wishes for kids like CJ.