Since 2016, Christopher Courtney’s life has been a series of ups and downs due to his battle with a neurodegenerative disorder. Sunday, however, was a day filled with surprises for 12-year-old Christopher, who not only threw out the first pitch at the Stanislaus State baseball game, but also received news that he and his family would be going on the trip of a lifetime to Hawaii this summer thanks to the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Christopher is in the seventh grade at Oakdale Junior High School, and for over a year has been struggling with a condition similar to Huntington’s disease. In early 2016, Christopher began to suffer from uncoordinated movements. Since Christopher was adopted by his parents, Chris and Stefanie, doctors were unable to diagnose his symptoms due to a lack of clear medical histories from his biological parents. In April of 2016, Christopher was admitted into the hospital after his condition deteriorated significantly, including symptoms such as choking, limited use of his hands and uncontrolled movements. After being placed on immune therapy, Christopher developed meningitis, putting his treatment on hold while he recovered in the hospital.
Christopher’s condition has improved significantly since returning home from the hospital. He no longer suffers from choking, and his movement disorder is better controlled. There has not been a diagnosis for Christopher’s condition yet, but he has been referred to an inconclusive diagnosis program at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.
Despite his ongoing fight with the neurodegenerative disorder, Christopher’s struggles have not kept him from doing one of his favorite things: playing baseball. He participates in Little League, and according to his father Chris, his condition doesn’t hinder him when he takes the field. To throw out the first pitch at Stanislaus State’s baseball game on Sunday was a wish fulfilled in itself, said Chris.
“He’s gone through a lot, and unfortunately he’ll go through a lot more,” he said. “When he found out that he was going to throw the first pitch today, the look on his face was amazing.”
But, the excitement didn’t end for Christopher after he threw a perfect strike to start the Warriors’ game. What Christopher didn’t know was that as he tossed the first pitch, a large group of Warrior athletes had gathered behind him, waiting to tell him the good news that his wish of a vacation in Hawaii with his family had been granted.
The song “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” echoed through the speakers at the stadium as athlete after athlete donned the surprised middle schooler with bright, colorful leis. It has always been a dream of Christopher’s to swim with the dolphins in Hawaii, he said, and that dream will soon become a reality thanks to the Make-A-Wish foundation and their partnership with NCAA II.
The Make-A-Wish foundation has partnered with NCAA Division II student-athletes since 2003, raising more than $3.5 million since the alliance’s inception. Stanislaus State athletes worked tirelessly throughout the year working various fundraisers and volunteering their time to the program in order to raise money to grant the wishes of local children.
“I’m especially grateful that there are organizations out there like this who can help kids going through a difficult time and give them hope,” said Christopher’s mother Stefanie.
The family hopes to take their Hawaii trip sometime over the summer, as Chris is a teacher and the family also has two college-aged children. Christopher’s parents hope the vacation will help their six children bond, and are glad a positive experience will be the highlight of their summer.
“To see him throw out the first pitch and now know that he’s going to get to swim with dolphins...I can’t put it into words,” said Chris.