Cheney man dying of cancer fulfills dream of meeting NBA superstar | People
Long before Joey Cawyer, of Cheney, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer he was a LeBron James fan.
“Joey has loved LeBron since his senior year in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary's (High School in Akron, Ohio),” one of Joey's best friends Drew Peterson said.
When Peterson and Thang Nguyen realized that their friend didn't have much time left they decided to attempt something special: To arrange a meeting with his favorite NBA player.
“Our friend tried to write LeBron on Facebook, but with those fan pages you never know who's behind those,” Peterson said.
So the guys settled on a Twitter campaign in hopes of getting LeBron's attention. The hashtag #MeetJoey took off, beyond what the young men ever could've imagined, according to Peterson. They got support from broadcaster Dick Vitale, GU men's basketball players Kevin Pangos and Sam Dower and Seahawk Jeron Johnson, among others.
“We didn't think anything was going to happen of it,” Peterson said.
Peterson credited several people for advancing their cause: Including Jordyn King, who reached out to Heat guard Norris Cole, and Haley Merriam, who is family-friends with Chris Hansen, who made it possible to get courtside seats for Joey, Peterson and Nguyen.
Joey and his mother Cindy Anderson had planned to attend the game before the Twitter campaign, and said that the Portland Trailblazers staff was “incredibly gracious.”
“They arranged everything we could've possibly needed,” Cindy said. “We exchanged so many emails and phone calls, it was like we knew them before we ever had even seen them.”
After the game, the young men and Cindy were escorted to the bowels of the Rose Garden Arena to wait for LeBron amid fans and autograph-seekers outside of the locker room.
“Everybody had their Sharpies out, and LeBron just kept saying to them, 'Thanks but I'm looking for Joey.' ”
Cindy described the scene as “the happiest I've seen Joey in a long, long time.”
“(LeBron) was extremely friendly, compassionate and empathetic,” Cindy said. “He took time with Joey, signed his hat and jersey, took a ton of pictures. LeBron and Dwyane Wade told him to keep up the good fight saying, 'you're strong.' ”
Joey's doctors have told his family that he needs to be put into hospice care, which made Thursday night's meeting that much more important.
“I haven't seen a lot of expression from Joey in the last two weeks because of the effects of his brain cancer,” Cindy said. “Last night you could see he was so – not just happy – but he was elated and content. He smiled so much. He was really, really, really happy.”
With so much negativity spread via social media, it was rewarding for Peterson and Nguyen to accomplish something so touching through Twitter.
“Joey's been our best friend our whole lives and to see him struggling like this is tough,” Peterson said. “To see him have that moment when he forgot about everything, for that one moment when he didn't think about fighting cancer, it was really emotional. To see him have that dream come true was really special.”
According to Cindy, the first thing Joey did Friday morning after meeting his hero was put on his autographed hat and jersey. Even though Joey has had a lot of trouble speaking recently, he “couldn't stop saying, 'wow, that was great.' ”
Cindy said that Joey is in his “end-stages” of his battle with cancer, and that they are going to return to Cheney and “take care of him the best we can.”
“It couldn't of all happened at a more opportune time,” Cindy said. “I knew that he always wanted to see the Miami Heat, and it was extremely important that it happened right now. It wasn't just him getting his wish of meeting LeBron, it affected everyone that was involved.”
Cindy and Peterson both made a point of expressing thanks to everyone that helped them make Joey's dream a reality.
“We've always given Joey a lot of flak for liking LeBron because we're Kobe fans,” Peterson said. “But after last night, I think we're LeBron fans too.”