by Chelsea Dill
“Dad, I’m on TV!” called 9-year-old Brendan White. His father, Sean White, was in the kitchen making popcorn when Brendan called to him. When he joined his son at the television, he saw something incredible. “We had no idea they were going to do it. They picked his photo to put on national TV,” Sean White says, referring to a special weekend in November. Brendan, his parents, and brother, went to Gillette Stadium as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts-Rhode Island Chapter. The photo displayed on television and on the stadium Jumbotron featured a smiling Brendan with Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady.
Born with spinal muscular atrophy, Brendan spent time at Boston Children’s Hospital, where his parents discovered their son was eligible for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. According to the Make-A-Wish Massachusetts-Rhode Island website, the organization “grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.” Granting Brendan a wish was always in his parents’ minds, ever since they were first approached with the idea by representatives at the hospital.
“They contacted us when he was very young, said Brendan’s mother, Mary White. “We wanted the wish to be his and to be what he truly wanted.”
“We put it off for many years. I wanted to wait until he was older and he could remember it,” added Sean White.
In November, Brendan’s wish came true. Sports were always his passion, so it was only natural that he wished to meet Tom Brady. “I like that Tom Brady is really good and I think he is the best quarterback. I like football the best because of the most action in it,” said Brendan.
Along with 10 other children, Brendan and his family had an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Each child saw his or her name flash on the Jumbotron in the stadium as a welcome from the Kraft family and the New England Patriots. Some of the highlights for Brendan included seeing the Lombardi trophies, making mock announcements in the press room, and trying on a Super Bowl ring. The children and their families then visited the office of Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, where he presented each with a bag of Patriots souvenirs. Brendan’s parents knew he was in his element and were overjoyed for their son. “There are sports fan out there, but Brendan eats, sleeps, and breathes sports. He’s a true fan,” said Mary White.
The children had the extra thrill of meeting Patriots players after their practice. When it came time to meet Brady, Brendan was overwhelmed and excited. He gave Brady a card wishing him luck to win the Super Bowl and a Perler bead decal in the shape of the Patriots’ logo to put in his locker.
“He said, ‘Thank you for meeting me,’” said Brendan, beaming. Brady tossed footballs with the children and took time to meet each of them and their family members.
In addition to Brady, Brendan met tight end Rob Gronkowski, coach Bill Belichick, defensive end Chandler Jones, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and wide receiver Matthew Slater.
The next day, Brendan and the other children stayed to watch the Patriots game against Washington from prime seats in the end zone. Brendan came home with a custom jersey and signed memorabilia, including a football and miniature helmet. But perhaps the most special item is Brady’s autograph on his wheelchair headrest—something he can take everywhere and a fond reminder of a lifelong passion and wish granted.