All-star attitudeIt took some patience, but Mitchell Rice learned that sometimes wishes really do come true. And with his all-star attitude, it’s fitting that it happened at a baseball game.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
It took some patience, but Mitchell Rice learned that sometimes wishes really do come true. And with his all-star attitude, it’s fitting that it happened at a baseball game.
Since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 6, Mitchell has endured countless grueling medical procedures and drug regimens. Every month he has to have chemotherapy, followed by five days of steroids. He’s spent many days sick and weak, and at one point, he lost his hair.
But the 9-year-old son of Eric and Lori Rice of Alexandria has handled it all with bravery and a positive attitude.
“He’s just a trooper,” said his mother, Lori. “He never complains about anything. He just marches forward.”
An avid baseball fan and member of the Bucks, an Alexandria Area Baseball Association team, Mitchell got a big surprise before a game last week.
His wish to attend this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game was granted by Make-A-Wish Minnesota, a foundation that fulfills wishes of critically ill children (see sidebar).
“Because I’ve had cancer for three years, they want to give me, like, a reward,” Mitchell explained.
When he was first diagnosed and after an interview with Make-A-Wish, Mitchell initially wished to meet Dylan and Cole Sprouse of the television sitcom, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
According to Kim Sunde of Make-A-Wish Minnesota, “celebrity” wishes take a much longer time to organize, so Mitchell was put on a waiting list. It took more than a year for the wish to “work its way into the system” to earn approval. Eventually, the Rices learned that meeting the TV stars wasn’t going to be the one-to-one experience Mitchell had envisioned.
So the foundation gave him the option of changing his wish.
“He’s a sports fanatic,” Lori said of his decision to attend an all-star game. “He loves baseball and follows all the players.”
“Baseball is my favorite sport and it’s the best sport I’m good at,” Mitchell agreed. “I thought maybe I could look at the pros and get better.”
His new wish was made a year ago, and organizers weren’t sure it could be granted in time for the 2009 game. He was told it might not happen until 2010.
“Mitch said, ‘That’s OK, I’ve waited this long, it doesn’t matter,’ ” said Lori of her son’s always positive attitude.
About seven weeks ago, Eric and Lori learned that Mitchell’s wish would be granted this summer. Sunde wanted the announcement to be special for him.
“We wanted to do more than a phone call,” she explained. “We wanted to make it more fun for Mitchell because he had waited for so long and had been so patient.”
Because it was a baseball wish, Lori and Sunde decided that making the announcement at one of his own baseball games would be the perfect venue. Sunde traveled from the Twin Cities to Alexandria to make the surprise announcement in person before the game started.
“He’s a great kid,” Sunde said. “To see his face light up when he realized why I was there was well worth the drive.”
“He was so excited,” Lori said.
“I was jumping up and down and screaming and being all excited,” Mitch beamed. “I had no clue. I thought it was going to be next year.”
In July, Mitchell, his parents, and his siblings, Olivia and Sam, will make the trip to St. Louis, Missouri. And after a long wait, Mitchell will finally have his wish come true.
In addition to the all-star game on July 14, the Rices will attend the home-run derby the previous evening. There is also a chance that Mitchell might be able to meet some of his favorite players.
“I want to see Derek Jeter, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Ichiro Suzuki,” he said, adding that the New York Yankees is his favorite team.
And it doesn’t appear as though Mitchell’s illness will interfere with his dream. Although he still takes daily oral chemotherapy medication, once-a-month chemotherapy injections, steroids, and a spinal tap every three months, his treatment will be complete October 15 – after three and a half years.
“He’s doing super right now,” Lori said. “We’re really lucky.”
“I’m glad it’s gonna be done in October, so that will be exciting,” Mitchell concluded. “With the cancer, I just dealt with it and got it over with. And now I’m happy that it’s over.”
About Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota
• Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota was founded in 1982 and fulfills wishes of critically ill children. Since it began, it has granted more than 3,000 wishes.
• The Make-A-Wish Foundation strives to provide the child and his or her family with special memories during a stressful time in their lives. Wishes generally fall into four major categories: I wish to go…; I wish to be…; I wish to have…; and I wish to meet…
• Once referred, the Make-A-Wish Foundation talks to the child’s physician. The child must have a life-threatening medical condition – defined as progressive, degenerative or malignant; live in Minnesota; not have had a previous wish granted; and be between the ages of 2 ½ and 18 years at the time of referral.
• There is no cost to the family in fulfilling the wish. All expenses, including meals and travel, are taken care of. The entire immediate family may participate.
• Make-A-Wish is funded from donations from individuals, outside fundraisers, corporate donations and a car donations program.
• To contact Make-A-Wish, either to make a request or donation, write to: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota, 615 First Avenue Northeast, Suite 415, Minneapolis, MN 55413; call (612) 767-WISH (9474); fax (612) 767-2768; visit the website www.wishmn.org; or e-mail email@example.com.