Heartland Hospice serving South Central Pennsylvania, a division of ProMedica, helped patient, Jack, attend an NFL game to cheer on his favorite team, the New York Jets. Jack has beaten throat cancer once and was in remission until six months ago when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. After speaking with his doctor and learning there were no treatments that would cure him again, Jack decided to make the most of his time.
Jack has been a fan of the New York Jets since the early 1960’s. His uncle lived in the Bronx in New York, just ten blocks from the Yankee Stadium. Jack would take trips to look at the stadium even when the Yankee’s weren’t playing. Through his uncle, his passion for New York sports was forged and never wavered, despite the distance between his hometown and his team. He tells stories about seeing his favorite quarterback, Joe Namath, get off the bus at a game to play against the Colts back in 1970, which was the last time he attended a football game. He continues to watch his favorite team from the comfort of his residence at ManorCare Health Services - Kingston Court. Although he is a Jets fan, he is excited about the Raven’s quarterback, Lamar Jackson. No matter the team, he will root for the best from every player.
When Jack became a patient with Heartland Hospice, he shared with the team that his wish was to attend a professional football game like he did when he was younger. This sparked the Heartland team into planning a way to fulfill his Heart’s Desire. They focused on games in Baltimore, which is less than an hour from his residence. Heartland was able to secure tickets to the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens Thursday Night game on December 12 through a grant from Heartland Hospice Memorial Fund.
To make sure Jack was able to properly represent the Jets among a sea of Ravens’ purple and black, the Jets sent Jack a memorabilia package of gear that also included a surprise. To battle the December cold, the Jets sent Jack a winter hat, gloves, sweatshirt and jacket. In addition to the winter gear to help him stay warm during the game, there were two additional gifts. The first surprise was a green Sam Darnold jersey, the team’s quarterback and Jack’s favorite current player. The second surprise was one that had Jack at a loss for words. Under all the winter gear was a white and brown football with the Jets logo and a signature from a Pro Football Hall of Famer, a Jets legend and Jack’s favorite athlete – Joe Namath. “Is this real?” Jack asked after reading the name on the ball. “I will tell you, that is something. I could almost cry. It’s really unbelievable. Some people sleep with a teddy bear, I will sleep with the football!”
Jesse Linder, New York Jets Senior Director of Community Relations, said when the team heard about Jack and his trip to the game, the organization had to get involved. The winter gear for a December game seemed like the natural fit but being able to help a fan miles away was a rare chance for the team.
The day of the game was a great day for Jack. He was so excited to get to the stadium that he was practically running to get inside. Christy, Heartland Hospice Administrator, Monica, Heartland Hospice Medical Social Worker, and Sydney, Heartland Hospice RN Case Manager, attended the game with Jack. They were greeted by a representative from the Baltimore Ravens and gave Jack VIP treatment. He was escorted to his seat at the 30-yard line, just behind the press box. As a courtesy of the Ravens, they were able to order any item off the food menu. The one item Jack made sure to have while at the game was a crab cake, and he enjoyed every bite. Jack also received Ravens memorabilia which included a Ravens figurine, flag, lanyard, hat and drink koozie. He was able to weather the cold with the winter gear supplied by the Jets, along with blankets and hand warmers. He was adamant about watching the whole game, it was only during half time that Jack and the Heartland team went inside the concourse to warm up with some hot chocolate. The Jets put up a fight to the very end, when they were ultimately defeated by the Ravens.
The Heart’s Desire Program gives Heartland Hospice patients the chance to fulfill their wishes with the planning and support from the staff and the surrounding community. Thousands of Heart’s Desires have been granted since the program’s inception in 1997. This particular event would not be possible without the generosity of the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Health Transport Partners in York, PA.