"A wish is an incredibly powerful thing. A wish is hope and a wish is aspiration," said philanthropist Andrew Firestone and event emcee. "Tonight, what we're here for is to make sure that wishes come true for kids and for families that are battling unimaginable odds."
On Monday, October 8, the Los Angeles Rams and Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties teamed up to host the "LA Rams Night for Wishes" charity event to raise funds to fulfill the wishes of local children. At the event, guests had the opportunity to meet and greet some of their favorite Rams players and take photos with the Rams cheerleaders and mascot, Rampage. Following a dinner, program and live auction, players collected tips from autographs and photos in support of Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties and their mission to help grant wishes for children and families who are battling life-threatening illnesses.
"It's so great to be here and to connect with people who're going through tough times and looking for something to brighten up their life," said Rams All-Pro Tackle and host of the event, Andrew Whitworth. "For me to be a part of this and to have the opportunity to grant a wish is really something special."
Battling chronic ulcerative colitis, Santa Barbara native and 17-year-old Gilbert Cabrera was homeschooled last fall after undergoing surgery for a partial colectomy. Due to some complications, Gilbert had three follow-up surgeries and spent an entire month in ICU. Throughout his tribulations remained an unwavering support of the Rams. Under the impression that he was attending as a guest, Gilbert was surprised to hear his name called out by Andrew Whitworth, who was anxious to deliver some exciting news.
Andrew Whitworth hosted the LA Rams Night for Wishes to raise money for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties.
"Is Gilbert here? Where is he?" asked Whitworth. "Come on up to the stage and let's have everybody give him a round of applause."
As he made his way to the stage, Whitworth extended his arm out to embrace Gilbert before sharing a special surprise he and the Rams had coordinated for him.
"Gilbert, we caught word that you have a wish and the Rams want to make it come true," said Whitworth. "On October 28th, when we play the Green Bay Packers, you're going to come see us play, you'll have pregame sideline passes, and you're going to meet Todd Gurley…But you know what, I don't know if that sweetens the pot enough. We want to make tonight extra special for a very special person. Can Jared Goff please come to the stage?""
Gilbert's excitement could no longer be contained. Through the cheers and applause of the event's guests, Pro Bowl Quarterback Jared Goff also wanted to show his support and add the final touch to a soon-to-be granted wish.
"Now, Gilbert, I know we've already given you a few tickets to one of our games, but we want to give you two more tickets to what should be another one of our games, this year's Super Bowl!"
After what became an evening unimagined, the humble Cabrera felt the solidarity amongst members of his community in support of him as well as others who are experiencing life-threatening conditions.
"The Rams just told me that I was going to be here for a fundraiser and that we were going to have dinner," said Gilbert. "Then they called my name, and I really didn't believe it at first. And then Andrew Whitworth said it again, so I just went up there…I still have a smile on my face because I really can't believe it. It feels like people really care for me. They did all of this basically just for me. It makes me happy. Dealing with all my stuff, this is a good experience for me. This is something I've never felt before."
Funds raised during the event will support Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties as they aim to grant the wishes of more than 140 local children who are waiting on wishes and currently battling life-threatening illnesses.
"I feel it's so important to support families and children when they have these critical times of need," said Patti Mullins, CEO of Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties. "We can't cure the illness, but we can give them a magical wish experience that they will remember forever. We're always proud and thrilled to do that."
On Sunday, October 18 when the Rams hosted the Green Bay Packers, Gilbert's wish was fully granted after meeting his favorite player Todd Gurley on the field during warmups. Gurley presented him a jersey and a signed football before taking photos with Gilbert and his family.
Make-A-Wish® Tri-Countiesgrants wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Each year, over 100 children are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and desperately need the positive experience that a wish provides. Founded in 1985, Make-A-Wish® Tri-Counties has granted the heartfelt wishes of more than 1,650 local children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties along the central coast of California.
Over the years, the Rams have raised more than $2 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill wishes.
A video recap of the "LA Rams Night for Wishes" charity event can be viewed here.
If you'd like to make a donation to grant wishes or receive information about Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, please visit tri-counties.wish.org.
For more information about the Rams community outreach initiatives, please visit therams.com/community.