Over the past 19 months, 10-year-old Ricky Cookson has had to deal with the kinds of things no kid should have to deal with – getting treatments, listening to doctors talk about his illness and keep upbeat while having to stay away from school and friends.
But last Saturday afternoon, he was a kid again – running an out pattern on the New England Patriots practice field and hauling in a pass from New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady while Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski defended.
His wish to play catch with Tom Brady had been granted.
“Words can’t even express how special this past weekend was,” said Richard Cookson Jr., Ricky’s father. “Ricky was just smiling from ear to ear all weekend. It was like you forget about it all for a couple of days.”
What they have needed a break from is coping with a rare genetic disease that Ricky learned he had about 19 months ago – a disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) that can cause a slow, but fatal, deterioration of the body.
The family – consisting also of mom, Heather, and brother, Jerry, 8 – has been through diagnoses, stem cell transplants, long hospital stays, videoconferenced school days and making up to three trips a week to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
In short, while things are now on the upswing with Ricky, they needed a break from a tough two years.
The Patriots and the New England Make-A-Wish Foundation made that break happen.
Said Ricky, “It was like really cool playing catch with Tom Brady and playing on the Patriots field. It was also fun to stay in Foxboro all weekend and go to two football games.”
The Cookson family – who live on Irving Street – were treated to a weekend in Foxboro after having been unknowingly nominated for a wish.
“We didn’t even know anything about it,” said Richard. “Someone must have nominated us anonymously. They called us out of the blue and told us about the foundation. After coming out for an interview, they said they could give him one of his choices. One of his choices was season tickets to the Red Sox. However, his first choice was to play catch with Tom Brady. They told us it might be a long time before that could happen, but then they called us a few days later and said he could do it Saturday.”
Saturday started with a limo pulling up to their Irving Street home.
They were driven down to Foxboro and were put up for the night in the Patriots Place Renaissance Hotel.
That morning, along with five other kids from Make-A-Wish, they were able to play on the Patriots field, and then they got to go to the practice field.
“As we were on the practice field, the next thing you know Tom Brady comes trotting over after he had finished practice,” said Richard. “He started playing catch with Ricky, throwing him passes. It was unbelievable. We were speechless. Then, lo and behold, Rob Gronkowski walked over and started playing with the kids too. They played with them for about 20 minutes and signed some autographs. Then, all the sudden, the whole team came over to the field along with Coach (Bill) Belichick. They all gathered around the kids and did the ‘1-2-3 Go Patriots’ cheer. There really are no words to describe exactly what that was like for us and our son.”
After that experience, the family was treated to lunch at the CBS Scene restaurant, and then to the UMass football game at Gillette. After a nice hotel stay Saturday night, they were then treated to tickets for the Patriots-Dolphins game (end zone, fifth row).
While Richard said things have turned around now, going to a game was much needed medicine.
Nearly two years ago, doctors caught the ALD diagnosis by accident.
“He went for an MRI because he was having headaches,” said Richard. “When they were analyzing that, they found out by accident he had ALD. That was a blessing because usually it isn’t diagnosed until very late and then not much can be done. In May 2012, he had a stem cell transplant, and he was in Children’s Hospital for about 40 days. He did a lot of inpatient and outpatient therapies at Dana Farber, sometimes two or three times a week.”
During that time, Revere Public Schools were able to use new technology to bring Ricky into his third grade classroom at the McKinley School nearly every day. Using a two-way videoconferencing station, Ricky was able to keep contact with his friends and his teacher, Elaine Moschella.
Now, however, Ricky is feeling much better and returned to fourth grade at the McKinley earlier this year.
“Now he’s back to school and doing much better,” said Richard. “The schools really did an incredible job keeping him socially connected with his friends and classroom. When he came back, they had a big banner welcoming him back.”
With his unforgettable visit to see Tom Brady last weekend, he’s well on his way to feeling much better his father said.
“We have the jerseys and we watch the games every Sunday,” said Richard. “On Mondays when they play, we let them stay up a little later than normal. Ricky’s been alive for all three Super Bowls, so he’s a die-hard fan. We are so thankful for what everyone did for him.”
After having battled a rare genetic disease for the last 19 months, all 10-year-old Ricky Cookson wanted to do was play catch with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady – and that’s exactly what he got to do last Saturday. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Cookson and his family were treated to a weekend in Foxboro, capped off with a game of catch with Brady, Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski and other team members. Shown here are Richard Cookson, Tom Brady, Jerry Cookson, Rob Gronkowski, Ricky Cookson and Heather Cookson.