MONUMENT - Sometimes wishes do come true.
Thanks to efforts by the Lewis-Palmer High School boys soccer team, 6-year-old Keagan Sanders of Aurora not only got to meet Mickey Mouse, he hung with the icon in his dressing room at Disney World.
“Mickey is really big in real life,” Sanders said with a smile. “We also had Christmas (at Disney World) when it wasn’t even Christmas.”
Sanders has cystic fibrosis. It is a life-threatening disease passed down through families that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body. It is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults.
There are other complications that arise with the disease. Sanders also has cirrhosis of the liver.
“Keagan was in an out of hospitals the first two-and-a-half years of his life,” said Jen Sanders, Keagan’s mother. “He had a feeding tube the first four-and-a-half years. It’s been tough on all of us, but I wouldn’t trade the life experiences I’ve had.”
A kindergartener (he goes full time), Keagan hooked up with the Colorado foundation of Make-A-Wish in Greenwood Village to see if his dreams of going to Disney World could come true. Several years ago, Keagan’s older sister, Karina - who also suffers from cystic fibrosis - had her wish of going to Disney World granted by Make-A-Wish.
Keagan and his family came together with the Lewis-Palmer soccer team because of a telephone call made by team mom Ann Heer. In August, Heer contacted Make-A-Wish to see if there was any way the Rangers could get involved with a child in need.
The ball got rolling quickly as Rangers team members asked students, faculty and member of the community to pledge money for every goal scored in an effort to raise money for Keagan’s Disney World wish to come true. They wound up getting over $60 per goal. The team scored 38 goals, meaning nearly $2,300 was raised to go toward the trip.
But the team did more for Keagan than just raise money. In August, it put together a clever music video with Keagan as the focal point. He joined the team on the field as they kicked simulated goals and clowned around.
Later in the season, the team presented Keagan with his own team jersey and ball.
“I wanted the boys to have the experience of doing something for somebody else,” Ann Heer said. “And I specifically wanted someone who was into soccer. It thought it would be a better fit.”
Keagan’s presence, as well as the act of doing things to make his life better, had a deep impact on the team.
“I liked being around him,” said Rangers senior midfielder Marcus Midzor. “I really liked playing for someone else.
“I’d rather him not have the disease, but it’s good to see that even with that disease he can still have joy in his life.”
Keagan was the motivation for Lewis-Palmer most dramatic win of the season. He and his family came to the team’s Pikes Peak Athletic Conference game Oct. 2 against Vista Ridge at Don Breese Stadium. The Rangers trailed 1-0 at halftime, but came back to win 3-2.
“He’s such a neat kid and a nice kid,” said senior midfielder Brendan Heer. “You want to do everything for him. I thought him being at that Vista Ridge game was the reason we came back to win.”
Prior to the Vista Ridge game, and again at halftime, the four co-captains - Heer, Midzor, senior defender Payton Briscoe and junior defender Casey O’Conner - addressed the team.
“We told them `This is the only game Keagan will be at. We have to show him how good we are,’” Briscoe said. “When we came back and won it was the best feeling I had all season.
“Having Keagan around during the season helped us in a lot of ways. We played for a better purpose than to just go out there and play another season of high school soccer.”
You can link to the video by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lX0tyJB8_I.