13-year-old Chicago Bulls fan with rare kidney disorder signs 1-day contract with the team
A 13-year-old boy battling a rare kidney disorder has signed a one-day contract to play with his favorite basketball team, the Chicago Bulls.
Parker Stevens' signing was announced at a press conference earlier this week where he grinned for pictures alongside General Manager Gar Forman, the team's coach and players.
"It was really cool," Parker told INSIDE EDITION.
The teen, who lives in Florida, was diagnosed with Wegener's granulomatosis, which inflames blood vessels and can cause kidney failure, in May after suffering from lethargy, blocked ears and aches and pains. After doctors checked his blood, he was ordered to go to the ER immediately, his mom told IE.
"It came out of the blue," Melanie Stevens said. The condition is so rare that hospital staff said they were told during medical school: "You will never see a case."
Parker started receiving treatment and, after six rounds of chemo, he was having a hard time, his mom said.
"A coordinator at the hospital said he needed a pick-me-up so she nominated him for Make-a-Wish," she said.
The foundation grants more than 14,000 wishes in the U.S. every year to children with life-threatening illnesses. At first, Parker said there were more deserving candidates, but the coordinator insisted.
"The only thing he wanted was to be signed to the Chicago Bulls for a day," Melanie told IE. "I thought, 'Whatever the Chicago Bulls do is fine. If they send stuff - like a T-shirt or backpack - it's awesome.'"
But they were in for a far bigger treat. The charity flew them from Florida to Chicago, where Melanie grew up and still has family. The Bulls invited Parker - as well as his mom, two brothers, uncle and grandfather - to the team's practice.
When they arrived, they found Parker had his own locker with his own plaque. It was between lockers belonging to two of his favorite players, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, and emblazed with his favorite number, 11.
On the court, he joined the team's practice and was even their honorary team captain at the game.
"The owners of the Chicago Bulls were the ones who took him on the tour," his mom said. "Each member of the team shook his hand and wanted to chat with him. The players were incredibly sweet."
Parker agreed. Hanging out with the players was the highlight of the day, he said.
"They exceeded my expectations," he said. "I thought I would just meet them all together for a really short time. But they all came up to me individually."
The team was just as impressed with young Parker.
Laughing, his mom explained: "The GM came up to me and said he wanted to hire Parker. He said he's never known anyone who knows so much about the team."
The family spent three days in Chicago before returning to Florida on Wednesday. Although Parker's disease currently appears to be under control, he still needs to undergo more than eight hours of kidney dialysis every night. His mom says they hope he will be able to receive a kidney transplant in the new year.
She added that the kindness shown by Make-a-Wish and the Chicago Bulls took their minds off his treatment for a day, she said.
"It was just so beyond words to see him so happy and for him to have that smile again," his mom told IE. "It was so much fun going to bed talking about [the trip] rather than dialysis. It meant so much."
You can find out more about Make-A-Wish, which is currently only able to grant a wish for about half of the children who potentially qualify, by visiting wish.org.
Photos courtesy Grace Wiley with the Chicago Bulls