A family of Seahawks fans in South Carolina received a special invitation from coach Pete Carroll to attend this past Sunday's playoff game against the Panthers after 7-year-old '12' Ade Lewis had his story go viral for standing by his club in enemy territory.
The whirlwind journey that brought 7-year-old Ade Lewis and his family to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday to cheer his favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, culminated in a nail-biting 31-24 loss that ended the Seahawks' 2015 season. But the once-in-a-lifetime experience taught a young fan perseverance and good sportsmanship, introduced him to a fervent fan base, and uplifted his family at a time they needed it.
"At the end of the day, he'll remember the excitement of it all, and he'll remember the personal stuff – getting to talk to the other 12s, and hanging out with his family," said his mom, Heather Lewis, a Washington state native who now lives in Charleston, S.C. "I think [the Seahawks fans] taught my kid how to rally, that it's OK, you can lose …and we'll get 'em next year."
Ade became Internet famous last week after his mom shared on Facebook that he was getting booed by kids at school for wearing a Seahawks beanie. The next day, the family received an invitation from coach Pete Carroll's office to attend the game.
"The day was surreal. It was so incredible," Lewis said. "From the second we walked in … we all got goosebumps. My husband and I got a little teary-eyed, and my kids' eyes got so big. We all went silent. We were so overwhelmed."
Ade, his parents and his brother, Brooks, were greeted on the field during pregame warm ups by coach Carroll, who ran up and hugged both boys, then took a knee and gave Ade a little pep talk.
"He looked him right in the eye and told him he was a cool kid for being brave," Lewis said.
Seahawks defensive tackle Jordan Hill and linebacker Bobby Wagner, both of whom had reached out to Ade earlier in the week, also took time to greet the family in person and pose for pictures.
At the game, as in life, Ade found himself surrounded by Panthers fans when the family took their seats. That didn't deter him, nor did the first half, in which the Seahawks were shut out.
"Ade cheered the entire game, standing on his feet, screaming 'Go Hawks' until I thought he was going to fall over from fatigue," Lewis said.
That energy was felt all the way to Kennewick, Wash., where Lewis' extended family welcomed the happy distraction after recently experiencing a loss. Lewis' grandfather passed away on Wednesday, one day before Lewis posted about Ade on Facebook.
"My grandfather was a Seahawks fan. He was 91 years old and he had a beautiful, happy life," she said. "When we got the [game] tickets, the first people we Skyped were my mom and my grandmother. My grandmother has liked hearing about it. It's been wonderful for everyone."
By the time the family piled into the car for the three-hour drive back to Charleston, a sleepy Ade had one request.
"He said he's never taking off his jersey," Lewis said on Sunday after the game. "He is sleeping in it tonight. He's insisting we don't change him into his pajamas."
And Ade will continue to wear his Seahawks beanie to school in Charleston, no matter what the other kids say.
"It's a fun story, what happened to our family," Lewis said. "We'll have this feeling that something huge happened to us, and I'm so grateful that were a part of it – totally, completely grateful and forever lifelong fans of the Seahawks."