Sam – decked in a spotless new uniform - walks out of his limousine- to the center-field gate with the theme song from “Rocky” blaring from the donated sound system, as he is welcomed by both teams and 370 cheering fans.
Baseball is this 11-year-old’s favorite pastime taking him to a blissful world of sunshine and freshly cut grass. But his cherished days on the field were put on hold when he received his neuroblastoma diagnosis – a life-threatening cancer affecting the nervous system.
Upon meeting his Make-A-Wish® volunteers, this 11-year-old knew he wanted nothing more than to play baseball again with his friends. So he asked if he could have a field in his backyard allowing him to play whenever he wanted.
While this is a pricey venture, the wish team knew it was Sam’s one true wish, so they pulled all their resources – seeking support from volunteers and donors – to make it possible.
The grounds crew from the University of Mississippi and Itawamba Community College agreed to help. The community donated sod, clay, fencing, a backstop, an irrigation system and even a scoreboard. Everything was set and ready for opening day.
Sam invites 18 friends to play on his team, the Mantachie Muddogs. To create a major-league atmosphere and make Sam’s day truly spectacular, the teammates’ parents donate popcorn, soda and hot dogs to the field.
Farris Field – named in honor of Sam’s surname – becomes the buzz of the small town as everyone gets ready for the opening game. A local radio personality volunteers to announce the game and neighbors agree to sing the national anthem and participate at umpires. Sam’s pastor joins the excitement eager to dedicate the field. Sam’s doctor even takes her seat in the stands to see her patient.
There wasn’t a better way to make the game even more extraordinary than for the Muddogs to play against the Briarcrest Christian School junior varsity team – the Saints.
Former Briarcrest player Brandon Henson – an active supporter of Make-A-Wish – was killed in a car accident in 2002. In an effort to continue his legacy, Brandon’s family sponsored Sam’s wish and arranged for the enthusiastic Briarcrest team to participate.
Sam’s friends and relatives, the media and half the community are ecstatic when Sam throws Farris Field’s first pitch to his brother Dennis. With Sam scoring a run and a base hit, the Maddogs earn a resounding 11-6 victory.
Sam’s wish experience not only filled him with incredible joy, but touched the lives of an entire community.
This wish received the Make-A-Wish annual Infinite Wish Award, given each year to a chapter that involved an entire community in making a child’s wish come true.