We rang Ethan’s doorbell for his send off and Ethan answered, opening the door with no idea what to expect. Ethan walked out, completely speechless as he walked out towards the limo in the driveway.
Ethan enjoyed his V.I.P. transportation, although still unsure where he was headed or what was happening. Once we arrived at our destination, Ethan was surprised to find we were at a familiar place, the Cornerstone Church of Athens. A red carpet awaited him, and friends and family greeted him with signs that read “Team Ethan” and “Never Give Up—the Last Swing Could Be the One That Wins the Game!”
Ethan’s guests enjoyed sharing stories of special moments and memories of Ethan and it was easy to see how he inspires faith in all of them. Next up – the big news… Ethan learned that his dream to see the Atlanta Braves play and meet Freddie Freeman was happening tomorrow! We presented Ethan with a special bag to have signed by all the Braves players he would meet the next day.
Ethan, excited and busy calculating what time he needed to be awake tomorrow, was surprised to pull in his driveway and learn that the fun wasn’t over yet. Three EMT’s from the Madison County EMS greeted Ethan with pins, a T-shirt, and a stuffed bear. He was appointed an Honorary Madison County EMT and received a tour inside the ambulance where they taught him about the equipment and let him practice hooking up chest electrodes and applying splints.
Ethan arrived at the Omni Hotel at Battery Park greeted by a clap-line of Omni employees welcoming him. Ethan’s favorite part was the awesome pool deck, but his enthusiasm increased as he entered his hotel room and saw the card and the basket full of treats. Even all the candy was no match for what Ethan saw at the other end of his room – glass doors, a balcony, and a stunning view of SunTrust Stadium.
Ethan’s Braves experience started with a tour of the stadium and then it was off to the field to watch the Braves players at batting practice. Ethan was in his element, he stood completely still and entranced while he watched. Throughout practice, Braves players would come over to say hello and sign autographs.
Finally, the moment Ethan had been waiting for arrived. Freddie Freeman, his favorite player, requested to meet him in the dugout. Despite how ecstatic he must have felt, Ethan was the picture of calm. As Freddie said hello, Ethan stuck his hand out to shake and continued chomping his gum, mimicking Freddie’s chewing. At 6 ‘5”, 226 pounds, Freddie towered over Ethan as he huddled beside him for a picture and autographed his baseball. The two chatted about which position Ethan played, and, Ethan, the perfect gentleman, always replyed with “please” and “thank you”, also referring to Freddie as “Sir.”
As they said their goodbyes, Freddie asked him to hold on a minute. He reached into his bag and handed Ethan the bat he had just used in batting practice. It was engraved with Freddie’s name and a #5. Freddie told Ethan he would like him to have it. Wow. Ethan was speechless. He couldn’t take his eyes off the bat and had to literally be steered out of the dugout by his mom, he was completely overcome with excitement.
Ethan did some of his own batting and pitching practice in CHOAs sandlot play area. And before the start of the game, Ethan had one more honor. Extremely poised, he walked onto the field and to his fellow fans, proclaimed loudly, “Play Ball!”
The Braves won, and Freddy Freeman got 2 hits. Ethan also got a special visit from Blooper, the mascot. As Ethan returned to the Omni that night, his mom watched as Ethan fell asleep with the treasured bat in his hand.
Dream Day 2
Ethan was treated to a VIP tour of Mercedes Benz stadium and a special tour of the athletic training facilities and EMT station. He even rode the emergency golf cart that transports hurt players. Once on the field, Ethan was presented with gifts from the Atlanta United and the Atlanta Falcons.
The next 30 minutes was spent playing football on the field he watches on tv with his grandfather every Sunday – a truly unreal experience!
Next stop, the Georgia Aquarium. Ethan was treated to a rare glimpse of the penguins private molting area. He was in awe as the whale sharks and rays swam around him in the Ocean Voyager Tunnel. Ethan loves animals so being around so many in one place was a ton of fun!
Later that evening, Ethan’s attended a second game, ate some of his favorite peanuts, exchanged secret handshakes with Tomahawk Chuck, and got to see the Padres coach get ejected. And when #5, Freddie Freeman, hit a homerun, Ethan was ecstatic! The night ended with a firework show perfectly matched to Ethan— full of light and wonder and an inspiration to us all.
Like his family, friends, and church members, we were all inspired by Ethan, who is always more than you expect. Ethan said it best himself, “Even though I might hurt, I know that I was meant to shine God’s light on others.”