By John Denton, OrlandoMagic.com
When Kansas City native Aaron Wilson met Jameer Nelson for the first time last week at the Amway Center, he came prepared with a sharpie and a mini-basketball for the Orlando Magic point guard to sign.
But Nelson turned the tables on Wilson, holding out his Magic practice shirt and asking Wilson instead for his autograph. A bit shy and embarrassed, Aaron froze briefly and didn’t know what to say. But within seconds, Nelson lightened the mood with a joke and had a hug and an autograph for the 11-year-old fan.
“It was so cool meeting Jameer,’’ Aaron would say later. “Jameer is very nice.”
Aaron was getting to live out one of his dreams by attending a Magic game as part of the Dream Factory experience. Aaron was born with Vascular EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), a critical disease that affects the joints and the soft tissue, and in his case, it weakens the blood vessels and the walls of organs. Aaron has already undergone two open-heart surgeries, an angioplasty on his heart and five mouth surgeries.
The time in hospitals and dealing with various illnesses have understandably taken a toll on Aaron and his grandparents, Kent and Belinda Rowland. So when the Dream Factory offered the family a trip to Orlando’s Disney World, LegoLand and a Magic game, they couldn’t have been happier.
“We’re from Kansas City and they don’t have an NBA team locally, so Aaron had to pick a team. Every time we’d watch TV, we’d see the Magic on and he just really enjoyed watching them,” Kent Rowland said. “This experience is absolutely overwhelming and the hospitality from the Magic is more than I could have ever imagined.”
Aaron, who owns a horse and lives on his grandparents’ farm outside of Kansas City, is a sixth-grader, but naturally had to miss a lot of school when he becomes ill or needs more surgeries. Belinda has lost count of how many procedures that Aaron has needed, saying, “we’ve had more operations than years of life.”
This trip to Orlando, one that allowed Aaron to meet Nelson, get plenty of Magic souvenirs and watch the Magic face the Houston Rockets, was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Belinda said. She was just happy to see the smile splashed across Aaron’s face as he watched his favorite team play and he hugged the mini-basketball with Nelson’s autograph.
“With so much of the stuff we just have to tell Aaron no, but this is the first time we can say yes to just about everything. It’s just an awesome trip for him because he’s getting to do some stuff that he normally wouldn’t get to do,” Belinda said. “We’ve had more operations than years of life. We spend a lot of time at children’s hospitals. When a normal child gets the flu or strep throat they get a sore throat and they are home for a couple of days. But when Aaron gets something like that it goes straight into the blood and to his heart and he’s hospitalized seven-to-10 days. So we know the hospital inside and out. That’s why this is just a good trip for Aaron to get away and have some fun.”
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