Minnesota Twins fans who attended the game at Target Field on July 23 may not have gotten to see their team win, but those who hung around after the final out were treated to something special. A group of pediatric cancer patients took the field and ran the bases thanks to the Twins and Brighter Tomorrows, a nonprofit organization that helps families affected by childhood cancer.
Among them was Knox Olafson, a four-year-old from Warroad, Minnesota, and sentimental favorite, who's undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Mayo Clinic. Young Knox is fighting osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that materialized in one of his knees.
Knox's mom, Christy Olafson, tells us Knox's treatment plan has also included rotationplasty. During this procedure, surgeons removed his tumor and the piece of bone it was attached to. Then they rotated his leg 180 degrees and re-attached it. His ankle joint became his new knee joint to give him greater future mobility using a prosthetic device. "He'll be able to get a prosthetic once chemo is done," Christy tells us. "But his care team first needs to make sure there's been enough healing in the bone, and chemo can obviously slow that down."
None of it is slowing Knox down, as evidenced by the way he smiled as he made his way around the bases at Target Field. "It was amazing," Christy tells us of watching Knox walk the same paths as players with last names like Mauer, Sano, Buxton and Dozier. "Before the game started, I asked him if he wanted me to push him in his wheelchair or if he wanted to use his walker, and he said he wanted to walk the bases himself," Christy says. "He made it all the way to third base before he got tired. Then he asked me to carry him across home plate."
When they crossed the plate, fans stood up and cheered as loudly as they would have had their favorite squad not just come up three runs short against a division rival. "The entire stadium started cheering him on as he crossed home plate," Christy tell us. "I could see that a lot of people had tears in their eyes, and that was just super sweet."
And Christy tells us it was all made possible not only by Brighter Tomorrows and the Twins, but also by Knox's care team at Mayo Clinic. "When Knox was first diagnosed at Mayo Clinic, his surgeon asked if he could reach out to Brighter Tomorrows because Shanna Decker, the daughter of one of the founders, Sherrie Decker, also had a rotationplasty procedure at Mayo," Christy says. "Sherrie and Shanna both actually came and sat with us during Knox's first chemo treatment and talked us through everything they went through and everything that we should expect going forward."
And when Sherrie invited Knox to attend the Twins game as a special guest of Brighter Tomorrows, Christy tells us it was a no-brainer. "We were in Rochester anyway, so we said, 'Heck yeah! We've got nothing else to do.'" (Except touch the hearts of several thousand people in a Major League Baseball stadium, of course.)
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