MELROSE (CBS) – A young boy undergoing chemotherapy for a genetic disorder received a big surprise when Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski arrived for the dedication of a football field that was painted in his backyard.
Seven-year-old Ryan Feeney was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves in his body.
He had a lower-leg amputation when he was two years old and now uses a prosthetic on his right leg.
Through the Make-A-Wish program, Feeney asked for a football field in his backyard so he could “practice playing and learn all about football.”
The 45-foot football field was painted with yard markers and a Patriots logo.
With his friends and family in attendance Friday morning, Feeney thought the new field was his big surprise.
But Gronkowski burst into the back yard to surprise Feeney.
He also played on the new field with the young Patriots fan and his friends, showed off the form for his patented spike, and gave Feeney an autographed jersey.
“Very happy and exciting,” Feeney said.
Gronkowski said the day was meaningful to him as well.
“To see the football field here, to see the smile on the kid’s face, I mean, he ran up to me right when I walked in and gave me a big hug,” Gronkowski said.
Gronkowski says that reaction says a lot.
“When a kid comes up to you and gives you a big hug, you know that means something special to them,” said Gronkowski, who added he learns a lot from children such as Feeney.
“You learn a lot. You learn not to take anything for granted. Just how special of a situation I’m in and the great opportunities I have, you just don’t want to take it for granted.”
Ryan’s mother Jill Feeney says the day was wonderful surprise for her son.
“I’m still shocked that he was in the backyard for Ryan’s ‘Make-A-Wish.’ It was just amazing,” Jill Feeney said.