Smith: Angels welcome Kids of Courage
ANAHEIM – From his wheelchair, Adam Wolf held up a homemade posterboard sign he made for his hometown baseball team on Sunday and asked his friends to take a picture with him with the Big A in the background.
Once a year, Adam, 13, of Irvine, who has cerebral palsy, reunites with his friends through a nine-day Summer Adventure Camp coordinated by the national, all-volunteer organization, Kids for Courage.
They’re tourists in purple Kids of Courage T-shirts, hitting all the most popular traps like Disneyworld, Universal Studios and, for the second time in three years, Angel Stadium.
The Angels welcomed the caravan of eight coach buses, three wheelchair-accessible minivans, two cargo vans and an ambulance into the parking lot before Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl, former Angels All-Star pitcher Clyde Wright and the community relations staff handed out Angels ballcaps to more than 400 of the team’s newest fans who have come from every state in America, Canada, England and Israel.
There were 151 children and young adults, ages 5 to 25, all with serious illness, disabilities and life-threatening conditions, including spinal-cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, cancer and genetic and metabolic disorders.
With them were 235 support staff including a 21-person medical team of paramedics, nurses and physicians who administered more than 700 doses of medication each day.
“It’s amazing to be able to go to a ballgame with my friends,” said Adam, hanging out with Zachary Jacobs, 16, of New York City; Josef Feldman, 24, of Long Island; and Ilan Bocian, 11, of Los Angeles.
“It’s hard to get to a game. This is my second one.”
For an afternoon, they got to sit in the stands along the right field line and cheer in the crowd of 36,789. The Angels didn’t win but the Kids of Courage did because they had several innings of freedom.
Freedom from hospitals. Freedom from the worries about their health. Freedom from being stuck at home without a Sunday adventure.
“Adam loves the company of getting spend time with the friends he had made through Kids of Courage from the East Coast,” said his mother, Alison Wolf.
Her son suffered a brain hemorrhage during birth and has been in a wheelchair all his life. He goes to school, stays in touch with friends through Facebook on his computer and smartphone and loves getting in the pool.
“Seeing the athletes is special for these kids since being it’s not going to be in the plans to do something physical like ballplayers,” Alison Wolf said. “So they get to live vicariously through them, just watching them.”
Being at an Angels game created a lot of banter among those children who already had their favorite ballclubs. A lot of Yankees fans boasted about their American League dominance but credited the Angels for their hospitality.
“It’s all fun watching them be fans,” said Kids of Courage medical team pediatrician Stuart Ditchek of New York City. “That’s what this day is all about.”
Jessica Osran, 19, of Orange, sat between Devora Oestrich, 22, of Brooklyn, and Rachel Weintraub, 15, of Staten Island, in Field Box Section 134 and eagerly awaited the first pitch.
“The Angels are my team,” Osran said.
“Mine too,” said Oestrich, who didn’t mind changing her allegiance from the Yankees.
The children were able to attend this camp for free through donations raised by the Kids for Courage, a New York City-based organization with the mission to “open up a world of support, hope and opportunity for every sick child and family, no matter how serious the diagnosis is,” according to the Web site (www.kidsoc.org).
A year ago, when Adam Wolf needed brain surgery, counselors from Kids of Courage got together in New York City to Skype him and wish him a good luck in his recovery after his operation at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange.
“It’s kind of cool when you think about it,” said Alison Wolf, standing in Angel Stadium. “You’ve got a lot of kids here with life-threatening conditions and they really need angels.”
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