When wish kid James was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August 2015, his family was in shock. The news was devastating.
"My world just fell apart," said Janice, James’ mom. "It took a while to accept that he had cancer. In the beginning, I would stop and warn every hospital staff member going into James’s room to not say the ‘C’ word."
But James and his family stayed strong and positive for each other. His love for football and his favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, played a big role in his fight against cancer. James' auntie Janet gave him a new nickname to motivate him: “Falcon Fighter.”
When James learned that he would receive a wish, he knew exactly what to wish for—to meet his Falcon heroes. His wish granters, Kari and Daren, went right to work personalizing the trip just for James, and only four months later, in December 2015, James and his family took a limousine ride to the airport and flew off to Georgia!
James’ experience was full of surprises and special gifts. As Janice would later tell everyone who asked her about James’ wish, "James was spoiled from head to toe!" He received "a closet full of Falcon wear, accessories, and products." At the Falcons’ training facility, they took a tour and met Falcons coach Dan Quinn. James received a Falcon coin and band, an honorary captain’s jersey and a jersey signed by his favorite player, Julio Jones! In their meeting room, James watched a video message addressed to him from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan! James also met with the Falcons’ general manager Thomas Dimitroff—and signed a contract to become an official member of the team!
Once he was a real Atlanta Falcon, he watched his team practice on the training field and soon after, had the privilege of meeting every Falcons player, including his favorite, Julio Jones! After the entire team signed James' Falcons helmet, he closed the practice by leading them all in their chant: “One, two, three, rise up!”
Then: game day. It was the Falcons’ 50th anniversary, and their big game against the Carolina Panthers who were undefeated that season. James and his family rode in a limousine to the Georgia Dome, received VIP access passes and stood on the sidelines where James met Falcons owner Arthur Blank and his family. James also got to meet Freddie, the Falcons mascot. And that day, James became the Falcons’ honorary captain! He went out to do the coin toss and shake a few of the Panthers’ hands, including Cam Newton’s. James and his family then went up to watch the game in the VIP Super Suite press box, right next to the Executive Suite—with food and drinks on the house!
At the end of the game, the Falcons emerged victorious against the Panther and broke Carolina's winning streak with the inspiration of their Falcon Fighter, James. “It was all worth it, every second of it,” said Janice. “For a moment he actually didn’t think about his condition. Unbelievable… priceless!”
“We just want to thank Make-A-Wish Hawaii, Make-A-Wish Georgia, and the Atlanta Falcons organization for making my son’s wish and dream come true, and for giving me and his sisters the opportunity to go on this journey with him,” said Janice. James and his family will never forget this incredible experience — and the Atlanta Falcons will never forget meeting James, their Falcon Fighter!
By: Christianne Michel