Jackson, an avid football player and fan, was shocked when he was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia just two days after his twelfth birthday. However, when Jackson’s family found out his diagnosis would make him eligible for a wish, a little bit of hope came back into their lives.
Shelley, Jackson’s Make-A-Wish Arizona wish granter and neighbor, knew Jackson would choose a wish that would include his love of football. She was not surprised when he wished to meet Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
“I was so excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jackson. “The Patriots are my favorite team and I’ve always wished to meet Tom Brady!”
One very special Saturday morning, Jackson arrived with his family in Foxborough, Mass., to meet his all-time favorite football player.
“It was an amazing bonding experience for Jackson and his dad,” said Jackson’s mom, Julia. “They are both huge Patriots fans and Jackson’s dad grew up in the New England area, so it was nice to be able to incorporate his heritage into Jackson’s wish.”
The day started off with a tour of the stadium and the football field, as well as a meeting with the owner of the Patriots, Bob Craft. Craft gave Jackson an assortment of exclusive Patriot gear, including a signed Tom Brady jersey.
“I was so excited I didn’t notice the team walking up right beside me!” Jackson said.
After introductions to the team, and to Tom Brady especially, Jackson spent the rest of the day with the Patriots. His favorite part was playing catch one-on-one with Brady.
“I’ve been playing football for my entire life, so being able to practice with my all-time favorite player was unreal,” Jackson said.
“When Jackson and Tom Brady were playing catch and taking pictures, we told him to grab Brady’s gloves off the ground and jokingly ask if he would sign them,” said Julia. “The funny part was he actually did! Brady signed his own gloves for Jackson!”
Jackson made another, unexpected connection with Tom just by adjusting his beanie hat. For the past year, Jackson and his family have worn clothing that features the words “Mo Mo The Fighter” in honor of Jackson’s sister Maureen, who passed away last year at the age of 10. When Tom saw Jackson’s beanie, he shared that the two had something in common.
“We found out Tom Brady has a sister he calls Mo Mo as well,” said Julia. “It was a neat bonding moment for both of them, and Jackson made sure to give him a ‘Mo Mo’ beanie before the end of the day.”
For the rest of his wish trip, Jackson’s family enjoyed touring Boston, and going to museums and restaurants in the city. His family even went to a Patriots game, where Jackson proudly wore his new signed Tom Brady jersey.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” Jackson said.
Looking back on everything, Julia says seeing her son so happy is something she will always cherish.
“Everyone was so generous and kind, and it was really nice to meet other wish families going through similar things – we had a connection that is hard to find,” said Julia. “As a parent you want your kids to be overjoyed. Jackson has such a positive spirit and nothing could replace what this wish gave to him.”