As his dad, Scott, explains with a big grin, keeping up with 7-year-old Rocky requires a ton of energy – he loves playing sports like basketball, football, baseball, swimming, ball hockey, and tennis. But it’s not just his energy or skills that make this incredible: Rocky was born with a critical heart defect, leading him to have three open-heart surgeries before the age of five.
Rocky has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital condition where that side of the heart doesn’t fully form. His first surgery came just a week after he was born – he was one of the smallest children to have the procedure in Canadian history – and two more soon followed. But his positivity and enthusiasm never stopped, reaching a new high this year when he had a wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Ever since Rocky was born, Scott has shared his own passion for baseball and the Blue Jays with his son. They have bonded over Toronto Blue Jays games, and this shared enthusiasm eventually led to Rocky’s wish of going to meet the team as a family and for Rocky to throw the first pitch at a home game. The family was at home when Rocky found out his wish was granted – he and his dad were practicing pitching in the backyard when the team from Make-A-Wish showed up to share the good news.
Soon after, they were boarding the plane in Saskatoon. “They announced our family and Rocky when we got on the plane, and everyone gave him a standing ovation at 6 AM,” Scott recalls with a smile. They arrived in Toronto for six amazing days, not only visiting the team and throwing the pitch for a loudly cheering crowd, but many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences: visiting the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, and Ripley’s Aquarium, and getting personal tours of TSN and the SportsCentre studio.
“I came home with two suitcases!” Rocky excitedly exclaims. Both were full of gifts, swag, and plenty of memorabilia. Scott says that everyone involved with the trip went out of their way to make it a real VIP experience. “I hope they know how awesome that is, for a kid to get that kind of treatment.”
So, after an experience like that, what happens next?
“We saw it as a finish line to everything,” Scott says. “All the surgery is done and now we can move on. We always aimed to treat him like a normal kid, one without a heart condition. Shaun White, the snowboarder, has a heart condition like his, and he says his parents never held him back and he found his own limits. We took that to heart, and it’s helped us let Rocky live his life.”
It’s not always easy, though. “Sometimes it feels like everything is piling up, but at the end of the day, there’s a light. And if you can celebrate everything they’ve gone through, it’s a great way to close it out. As hard as it is sometimes, we don’t hold him back.”
For Rocky, that means getting to do more of what he loves – playing sports and fully enjoying a well-deserved childhood.