For many 13-year-old basketball fans, the chance to meet famous NBA players like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade only happens in their dreams.
Vandalia’s Dylan Harvey saw his dream become a reality last week after the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent him on an all expenses paid trip to Miami, Fla. to visit his favorite NBA team, the Miami Heat.
Harvey was eligible for the wish as a past kidney transplant recipient.
Last Friday, he joined more than 40 other kids with a wide range of ages who were also having their wishes come true at the American Airlines Arena, the home of the Heat.
Upon arrival, Harvey had the opportunity to walk through the parking area of the Heat players and quickly noticed some nice cars like a Ferrari parked in one space. Walls of the garage featured many large action photos from past Heat games and championship runs.
After registration, all Make-A-Wish kids were greeted by the Heat’s television play-by-play announcer Eric Reid. Reid talked about his 21 years with the team and shared many stories relating to the Heat’s three championship runs.
Harvey then joined the other Make-A-Wish kids in a sectioned off area for an opportunity to watch the Miami Heat players during a practice. Many employees of the Heat told him that they had never seen the usually closed practices until that day.
After practice, a brief tour was given of the arena. Harvey walked through a sectioned off walkway in the Heat’s locker room where he saw the lockers of favorite players like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Ray Allen.
As he turned out of the locker room, he was quickly greeted by NBA Hall of Fame coach and current Heat executive Pat Riley. Riley presented him with a special card recognizing the Heat and their rise to an NBA title.
The tour of the sports medicine room was followed by his first full glimpse of the basketball court from the luxury suite area.
During a catered lunch, Harvey had the opportunity to meet the Heat’s mascot “Burney.”
Minutes later a Heat employee gave him the opportunity to wear the team’s NBA championship ring won earlier this year.
After lunch, all Make-A-Wish kids were escorted down to the arena court, uncertain of what the next surprise might be.
It didn’t take long to figure it out as the Public Address announcer began calling the name of one Make-A-Wish kid the same way he would when introducing the starting lineup.
Soon it was Harvey’s turn to stand in the tunnel and run onto the basketball court when his name was called over the loud speaker.
Video of him running onto the court also appeared with his name on the Jumbotron that hangs above the court.
Waiting to greet him was the entire roster of Miami Heat players. He was able to give them fist bumps before sitting down in a chair provided for him on the court.
After every kid was greeted by players and a large cheering section of Heat employees, Harvey awaited more once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Group of three Miami Heat players took time to visit with every kid in attendance.
They signed an official NBA basketball and took time to take either individual candid photos or photos with three players standing behind each kid.
Among the many players he met was Mario Chalmers, a former standout at Kansas.
Harvey told Chalmers he was from Missouri and was asked who he was a fan of. After saying Missouri, Chalmers joked with him that he might not sign the ball and followed with “Rock Chalk Jayhawk.”
Harvey told him he still liked Chalmers as a player and of course, Chalmers signed his ball.
He met one of his favorite players in Ray Allen. He also took the time to offer words of encouragement to Heat center Greg Oden.
Oden has battled injuries throughout his short NBA career.
Harvey took candid photos with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and more.
He also enjoyed the opportunity of presenting a Bible to LeBron James.
Then his day became extra special when he asked a Miami Heat official if it would be possible to meet the team’s Vice-President of Player Programs Alonzo Mourning.
Mourning, a retired NBA all-star, is like Harvey in that he’s still fighting a kidney disease. Mourning received his transplant back in 2003 and later returned to the court.
Mourning heard the request and made a special trip to the event with the sole purpose of meeting Dylan.
Harvey and Mourning discussed their surgeries. Harvey even lifted his shirt to show off his own surgical scars.
They briefly discussed their faith and Mourning finished by signing Harvey’s basketball “To Dylan, Stay Strong.”
After meeting every Miami Heat player, Harvey received a gift bag full of goodies.
Anything from LeBron James shoes, to “Beats,” an official LeBron James jersey with Harvey’s name on the back of it, and more.
Harvey then had the opportunity to have his photo taken alongside the Heat’s three NBA championship trophies.
A final photo was taken of him that was later put on a poster alongside every player on the Heat roster.
During the remaining part of the trip, Harvey enjoyed his stay at a luxury hotel with a view of the water, eating at restaurants with expensive menu items, walks to the local marketplace, and time swimming in the ocean.
The wish concluded with great seats to watch the Miami Heat take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Heat defeated James’ former team 114-107.
Harvey flew back home on Sunday afternoon, returning to the cold and seeing snow on the ground. Needless to say, he wanted the plane to turn back around.
He’s thankful for the opportunity provided by the Make-A-Wish foundation. He shared some of his experience during class when he returned to school on Monday.