A lifelong Notre Dame fan, 15-year-old Cameron has spent hours glued to the TV, cheering on the Fighting Irish. In his wildest dreams, he never imagined that his sports heroes would one day hoist him onto their shoulders in celebration, or that he would stand in front of a crowd of fans as they applauded, cheered and yelled his name.
Cameron is battling a life-threatening kidney disease that required a transplant when he was just three years old. Because of this, Cameron is unable to participate in contact sports. Though his condition has forced him to stay on the sidelines, Cameron hasn’t let it get in the way of his love of the game. When approached by Make-A-Wish®, Cameron told wish granters he wished to be a Notre Dame football player.
To kick off his wish, Cameron and his family attended a team meeting, expecting to sit in the back of the room and watch. Instead, Cameron was brought up front by Head Coach Kelly amidst a roaring round of applause from the entire team.
Reflecting on that moment, Cameron’s dad Bob has a hard time holding back tears.
“I hope they realize how special they’ve made him feel, to walk down those steps and have our heroes applaud us,” he said. “We are in deep, deep gratitude to Make-A-Wish and to the great people at Notre Dame.”
But the warm welcome at the meeting was only the first of many surprises to come.
Next, Cameron talked with Coach Elliot, the linebackers’ coach, whom Cameron unknowingly shared a bond. Coach Elliot had undergone a kidney transplant, just like Cameron, and he let Cameron know it shouldn’t stop him from following his dreams.
“He gave me hope that I can be around the sport even though I can’t play it,” Cameron said. “I can still be involved.”
During his wish, Cameron also ate with the players at a team dinner, joined Coach Kelly as a guest on his radio show, and attended two days of practice. At the end of the second day’s practice, Coach Kelly surprised Cameron by calling him out to the field. The team cheered for Cameron and lifted him up on their shoulders, celebrating their honorary team member and hero.
Cameron then joined the team on stage during the school’s pep rally. Now no stranger to applause, Cameron smiled and waved to the audience when he was introduced by Coach Kelly. The crowd went wild.
The day of the big game, Cameron donned his Notre Dame jacket as he joined his teammates for the ceremonial walk to the stadium. He then watched from the stands as his favorite team defeated their rivals.
Cameron may not have taken the field, but Notre Dame staff member Ernest Jones said he was key to their victory.
“Cameron was inspiring us as we went through the weekend,” Ernest said. “We’re now going to go out here and play for Cameron.”
Today, Cameron can look back on his wish come true and remember the day he helped lead his favorite team to victory. The Fighting Irish helped renew Cameron’s spirit to battle his own greatest rival, and Cameron showed everyone you don’t have to be a player to be a true part of the team.