ESPN and Disney helping grant wishes to ailing children

With all due respect to Dick Vermeil, Adam Morrison and David Beckham – there should be no crying in sports.

After all, these are just games. And at the end of the day, none of it really matters.

At least compared with the 10 stories ESPN will air in its latest project, “My Wish.''

One of those stories is 11-year-old Steven Castro, who has been battling Crohn's disease for four years. He's been in and out of the hospital numerous times and requires constant medical supervision to control the life-threatening condition.

“There are good days and bad days,'' said his father, William.

Recently, the New York Yankees fan had a very good day, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Steven always wanted to meet his favorite player, Derek Jeter, and the charity made that dream come true when it flew him to New York to meet his hero.

There, he spent an hour-and-a-half on the field during batting practice with Jeter, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and the rest of the Yankees' players before his family was treated to a Yankees-Florida Marlins game.

“Walking on the field and meeting the players was a great experience,'' the Lake Worth, Fla., youth said. “I was so happy I was speechless.

“Derek was exactly like I expected he would be. He was nice to everyone. He wasn't mean to my sisters, or anything.''

In addition to Steven's story, ESPN is scheduled to air nine other stories of inspiration. The children, all with life-threatening medical conditions, had their sports wishes come true for a day. ESPN teamed with Disney and the Make-A-Wish Foundation on the stories, which will be told by Chris Connelly.

Other segments will include the story of Johnny Mazza, an 11-year-old Largo, Fla., boy who has lived through a bilateral lung transplant. He got to spend time with Jeff Gordon inside the Hendrick Motorsports compound in Charlotte, N.C., then watch the Coca-Cola 600.

Then there's Charlie Pena, a 12-year-old boy from New York City with sickle cell anemia who helped run the Philadelphia Eagles' offense for a day of spring practice.

“Viewers will run the gamut of emotions because you're really happy for the kids, but at the same time you feel what they have to go through every day of their lives," said senior coordinating producer Stephanie Druley.

Like always, there will be some who will criticize ESPN for teaming up with its parent company and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and for producing what some might call schmaltzy journalism.

After all, criticizing ESPN has become about as en vogue as picking on Britney Spears.

But I'd much rather see the net spending its resources on stuff like this than on another bad movie or television show featuring a bunch of newspaper talking-heads.

And, yes, it's OK to cry for these kids.


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