PHOENIX — The power of sports was on full display Friday as players with the Chicago Cubs spent time with some of their youngest fans.
Seven kids with serious medical conditions and injuries were flown from the Midwest to Phoenix, Arizona to not only be part of Spring Training, but to meet some of their favorite big-league players.
Four young Cubs fans spent the day at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona and went through team warm-ups. Nyiah Young is 14 years old and has sickle cell anemia. She has been awaiting a bone marrow donor for 10 years.
"I thought we were just going to meet and talk with them," said Nyiah Young. "I didn't expect [to be] working out with them."
The surprise adventure was arranged by the Advocate Aurora Health. Some kids also spent time at the newly-revamped American Family Fields of Phoenix, the Spring Training home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Some of the children we serve have challenging lives. They're in and out of doctor's offices and the hospital environment," said Bill Santulli, Chief Financial Officer for Advocate Aurora Health.
Another Cubs fan is Johnny Sorial, who is not only celebrating his birthday during Spring Training's opening weekend, but is also celebrating the end of three years of chemotherapy for cancer. Sorial immediately gravitated toward Cubs infielder David Bote.
"He's like one of my favorite players," said Sorial. "It was just a big thing to happen and I was just really excited."
Chicago Cubs players greeted the kids with smiles and signing autographs.
"A key pillar of all of our brand partnerships is to provide experiences of a lifetime for deserving patients and families," said Kelly Jo Golson, chief marketing officer for Advocate Aurora Health. "There will be lots of surprises, from meeting favorite players to donning special team gear."