Travis Whittington grew up in Chicago's West Side neighborhood, yet a few years back he saw the Seattle Seahawks playing the Bears on TV and decided to become a Seahawks fan.
So when Whittington got a chance, through the Make-A-Wish, to have a wish granted, he chose a trip to Seattle to meet Seahawks players, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in particular. Whittington, 18, played middle linebacker and wore No. 54 before receiving a kidney transplant in June, which unfortunately means no more contact sports.
"It's super powerful," Wagner said of having a kid from Chicago specifically request to meet him. "It's dope, man. It kind of shows how wide our platform reaches, so if I can make a kid's day like that, that makes my day too, because I like putting a smile on people's faces."
Whittington was one of four teenagers who had a Seahawks-related wish granted over the weekend along with Preston Gilmore, 17, who has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia; Coby Weston, a 19-year-old from Raleigh, NC, who has Hodgkin's Lymphoma; and 18-year-old Megan Sevaty, who has Mitochondrial Encephalopathy, Lactic acidosis, and Stroke-Like episodes (MELAS), a rare genetic disorder that results in stroke and dementia. All four have different backgrounds and face different battles, but for all four, being fans of the Seahawks was a common bond as they took in Friday's practice and toured the team's Renton headquarters.
"You can't put that into words what that means," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "You try your best to remember when you were a kid and you had dreams and wishes like this. These guys were your heroes, and when you remember things like that, it brings you back to a special place. You're just thankful you can be that for these kids, and you try your best to not let them down. You want them to leave here better when they came in. You want to bring them as much joy as that moment can bring you."
Whittington called his experience, "great. Real great. Way better than I imagined." Like the three other Make-A-Wish visitors, Whittington got to meet several players as well as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. He got a pair of gloves from running back Thomas Rawls, then used them for a game of catch with Carroll, whom Whittington impressed with a one-handed grab.
On Sunday, all four attended the game, had access to a suite, and got to watch pregame warmups from the field.
"I got so emotional," Linda Whittington said after watching her son interact with players with a huge grin on his face.
Linda Whittington, who is Travis' biological aunt, has raised him since he was young and adopted him when he was 3 years old.
"This kid is a great kid, and he has been through a whole lot," she said. "He spent the first three weeks of his life in a shelter. When I got him, it was two days after DCFS brought him to me, I had to rush him to the hospital to find out he had an infection on his brain. They didn't think he was going to be able to play any sports, but he overcame all of that."
It was playing that allowed doctors to discover that Whittington had chronic kidney disease and needed a transplant. While running around outside with friends, Whittington got a hernia, prompting another trip to the hospital. That's where doctors realized he had end-stage kidney failure. Had that gone unnoticed and had he turned out for football this fall, a hit in the wrong place could have had dire consequences.
"It was a blessing in disguise," Linda Whittington said. "I'm so grateful that he got that hernia. If he hadn't, he might have been playing football and taken a hit and done some real damage."
Whittington instead was on a football field last week with some of his NFL heroes, meeting All-Pros and playing catch with a Super Bowl-winning coach only four months removed from a kidney transplant.
"It's just amazing the things this young man has been through, and he has overcame everything," Linda Whittington said. "And he's graduating in June. Even though he went through all of this, he stayed on point in school. I've only seen him cry once, and that was when they gave us the call that he got a kidney… He just went through a lot of things, but he came through."
Their wishes were to meet their favorite Seahawks players and this weekend those wishes came true for Preston, Coby, Travis, and Megan! These four special kids spent the day watching practice and meeting the Seahawks and coach Carroll. Check out the photos from their day at VMAC!