Wishes do come true. If in doubt, ask pediatric cancer patient Matthew Harding.
The 15-year-old boy from Elverta received the surprise of a lifetime today when he became the youngest soccer player in Sacramento Republic FC history to be signed to a contract, as part of his Make-a-Wish wish.
Harding was born at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in 2002 and has been a UC Davis patient throughout his childhood. In April of 2016, Harding began to experience discomfort behind his eyes and his field of vision was beginning to shift inwards. After a visit to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with Langerhans-cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer that causes tumors to form. He was admitted to the UC Davis Children’s Surgery Center to have a mass removed from behind his eye and then endured a year of chemotherapy. He has since completed treatment and has received the all-clear from his doctor to play soccer again, his favorite sport.
Harding returned to the hospital this afternoon, where he received the surprising news that his Make-a-Wish request to become a Sacramento Republic FC player had been granted. Surrounded by Sacramento Republic FC players, staff and his UC Davis health care team, Harding signed a player contract, received a jersey with his name and favorite number on it, and was part of a press conference with Ben Gumpert, Sacramento Republic FC president and chief operating officer, and Todd Dunivant, Sacramento Republic FC general manager. Harding has been invited to practice with the team on Thursday and join them on the field at Saturday’s match against Las Vegas Lights FC.
UC Davis pediatric oncologist Jo Chung described Harding as the strong, silent type and said that one of the few things that he would always talk about during their appointments would be soccer. Soccer always excited him, she said.
“I’m so happy for him that he can have this experience,” said Chung.
Harding said he had no idea that his wish would be fulfilled, but was very happy that it was.
“It’s an amazing day at UC Davis Children’s Hospital to make children’s wishes come true,” said Judie Boehmer, executive director of patient care services at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.