Ryan Feeney had some professional help when it came to breaking in his new backyard football field.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski surprised Feeney during the special tailgate reveal party of his football wish, granted by Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Sept. 1.
The wish – Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s 8,000th – included a custom sign for his new field, a scoreboard, team benches, bleachers and a personalized jersey. The entire field was themed after the Patriots, according to the Melrose Free Press.
Gronkowski arrived and threw the ball around with Feeney before posing for photos with the gathered group.
“He couldn’t believe what he saw when Gronk came in and he had to hug him to make sure it was all real,” Ryan’s mother Jill Tozza told the Free Press. “I think the emotions he was feeling led him to just run towards Gronk and give him a big hug. Who wouldn’t want to do that.”
Feeney was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis – a genetic disorder that causes tumors on the nerve tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic – at 4 months old. As a result, he later developed tibia dysplasia which led to a below-knee amputation when Feeney was only 2. He now walks with a prosthesis — but he was so skilled on the field, Gronkowski was shocked to learn about his artificial leg!
Now, Feeney is undergoing chemotherapy to shrink a tumor on his optic nerve.
“Ryan’s smile was priceless and it captured exactly the way he was feeling,” Tozza told the outlet about the special day. “He was truly amazed and excited to catch a pass from Gronk, learn how to spike a ball in the end zone and to run a few plays leading Ryan to score a touchdown!”
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She gushed, “Truly an amazing day for Ryan, his brother Jack, our family and friends and the Melrose community.”