Cody’s Front Row Experience: Washington Redskins Game
Title: Cody’s Front Row Experience: Washington Redskins Game
Illness: Embryonal Biliary Rhabdomyosarca
Cody’s Front Row story starts with family. Brandon and Amanda were at the park on the lake, with Cody and his siblings when Brandon asked Amanda and the kids to be their husband and dad. It was picturesque, joyful, and a truly bright and memorable “front row moment”.
Spirits continued on high as they returned home, with so much to look forward to. Brandon had started the tradition of taking each kid to a Redskins game. And while Cody was the youngest at 4, his turn was coming up.
Life had other plans, as Cody’s gallbladder burst and he was taken via helicopter to the hospital. After the immediate emergencies were addressed, the conversation came with the Doctor who gave the news that nobody wants to hear: Your son has cancer.
There were some dark and trying moments, but this family committed to tenaciously fighting the disease, and holding onto admirable attitudes. We recognized the front row spirit exemplified when Brandon shared “In our family… it is ok to fail, to fall short, to feel frustrated… but we NEVER give up”. A mission was born with a hashtag, and #CodyCanCrushCancer was the rally point.
From day one, Cody had his Redskins blanket in the hospital, and insisted on having it for the 37 harsh radiation treatments that followed. He lost his hair, he lost weight, everything about him on the outside appeared to change… but cancer never touched what was on the inside. Cody wore a smile, toughed it out, and didn’t let a port in his chest keep him from having as much fun as possible.
Brandon submitted the application to Front Row Foundation early on, and we were able to secure aptly named “dream seats” for the following season (2017) in December. When it was revealed to the family that they would be going this brought smiles and exclamations of excitement. Cody could finally go to the game that cancer had put on pause, but with his whole family joining him. His sweet nature and innocence wasn’t lost on us when we learned his excitement only magnified when he knew that the WHOLE family would be right there with him. Check out his surprise unveil!
The family stayed together at the Kimpton George hotel, right in the heart of DC. A dinner at Fogo De Chao was full of surprises… special heart-shaped coasters, warm welcomes from staff and stories of Redskins players that came in to dine there, and one of every dessert on the menu. To top it off, with dessert came a signed football from the Redskins QB Kirk Cousins!!
Everyone went to bed as the big day was ahead.
For breakfast, everyone went to the iconic “Old Ebbitt Grill” which is across the street from the White House. We had a private table in the corner, and pancakes and waffles and OJ flowed. The family got a private tour of the kitchen…. but then… they were directed to a special elevator to get a rooftop VIP tour with some of the best views of the city. It was an inspiring kick off to an inspiring day.
When they exited the restaurant, the family saw a Hummer Limo had pulled up to take them to the stadium. More gifts awaited in the limo, and the anticipation was palpable. Media passes were secured for the family and staff, so their early arrival allowed them on the field with the players and coaches. What happened next was magical…
Cody threw the ball with Brandon, and we all lined up on the end zone line to watch the players practice. The cheerleaders came over, and Cody got his moment on the Jumbotron! Then Cody’s favorite player, Ryan Kerrigan, specifically walked up to Cody, gave him a high five, autographed his jersey (and the rest of the family’s) and gave some encouraging words. As the top wide receivers and linemen came over for autographs, all of the other spectators could tell that the most important person on the field that morning was a 5 year old who had fought through cancer treatments to be well enough to stand there. This was his moment.
When players came back out from the tunnel, Cody saw Cody Doctson (top wide receiver) come BACK over to give him signed gloves and cleats. The real deal. Eyebrows went up and jaws dropped.
The family made their way to their seats for the national anthem and the start of the game. Cody had a blast, drumming on the wall on third downs, celebrating big plays, and he was gifted the first touchdown ball of the game! The Cheerleaders came over multiple times and even brought him down onto the field for a photo. As the afternoon turned into evening, you guessed it: Cody was wrapped in his blanket. The game came down to the wire… but the Redskins WON, toppling the favored Arizona Cardinals. A couple more autographs were given as players exited the field victorious, and Cody needed everyone to help him carry multiple balls, cleats, gloves, and posters that were covered in signatures.
As we say, he wasn’t just a spectator, he got to truly come alive as a participant.
We hopped back into the hummer limo for one more surprise. Dr. Titlebaum and his class at Dayton University, who raised thousands of dollars to sponsor Cody’s event, had found a way to secure an autographed football by the whole team. The family couldn’t believe it. This was the cherry on top of an unforgettable day.
Brandon and Amanda are set to push play on life again and get married. Cody has had clear tests and the cancer appears to have been “crushed” for the time being. I remember seeing a photo of Brandon and Amanda who had both shaved their heads in solidarity and support of Cody and asked them what this whole experience had meant to them. They shared two things I will never forget:
This experience, and all the difficulty, while they wouldn’t wish it upon anyone… gave them an opportunity that they seized: a chance to become closer as a family. Weathering this storm has made them stronger. When they said they never give up, they meant it, and they have our admiration for it.
The other? That “This Front Row Experience gave us hope. It lifted us to a level we’ve never been before, like being on Everest right now.” The day in the front row is a powerful expression of what this family had started before and will continue after… overcoming the difficult, doing the seemingly impossible, and growing together as a family.
When we look back on our lives, we will likely understand them as a series of meaningful and memorable moments. These moments transformed this family, and the stories of their moments have transformed us. We are so inspired to continue this work, and thanks to all the people who made this possible.