Bridger Hunt did not get the half-pipe he was hoping for on his 12th birthday.
Instead, he's spent the past 50 days fighting for his life and now the use of his left leg at Primary Children's Medical Center after being grievously injured by a homemade fireworks device on July 24.
So imagine his delight when he learned that his skateboarding idol, Ryan Sheckler, was coming to town with the AST Dew Tour this weekend.
"Two weeks ago we told the doctors, 'We've got to get him to the Dew Tour,"' said his mom, Mindy Carter-Shaw. "They gave us a big list of things he had to do ... and we did them. This is what he's worked for."
Bridger is scheduled to be released today, and he already has plans to meet with Sheckler, one of the most popular attractions on the tour and watch the skateboarding competition in a private box on Saturday. It was the promise of that outing that had the 12-year-old practicing how to use a walker Thursday morning when he heard an announcement over the intercom that sent him back to his wheelchair and outside for the first time in nearly two months.
"We just heard them say that there were people from the Dew Tour here on the patio, and we hurried up to meet them," Carter-Shaw said. "We've already got plans to go to the Dew Tour; this is just an added bonus."
And while it was an unexpected extra for Bridger, for most of the children who made their way to the third-floor patio, a visit with two BMX competitors was as close as they will get to the Dew Tour.
David Williams shivered as he waited for his turn with Austin Colemen, who competes in BMX park and BMX vert events.
The 4-year-old, who suffers from neuroblastoma, made his way around the patio on his plastic Diego tricycle collecting autographs and stickers from Coleman and Kevin Robinson, who competes in BMX vert. The two athletes spent about an hour and a half with patients from Primary, most of whom have been in the hospital for extended periods of time.
"I'm going to put it in my room," David said when asked what he was going to do with his poster, which included a drawing Coleman penned of David on his bike.
As David chatted with Coleman, Brittni Meservy, 12, received some words of encouragement from Robinson, who has spent a lot of time in hospitals dealing with 28 surgeries.
"A shattered pelvis that was the worst," said the 36-year-old father of two toddlers. "I couldn't even (lift my head); I was on a liquid diet. It's tough."
Then as Brittni's father, Jeff, wheeled her toward Coleman, Robinson reminded her to keep her chin up.
"Keep thinking positive," Robinson said. "Some days it's hard. You've got to be a dancing singer; I'm going to be looking for you."
Tammy Costanzo said she was very impressed with how Robinson related to her 14-year-old daughter Melissa, who was just admitted to the hospital Wednesday.
"I think it's really awesome that they'd take the time out of their schedule to come talk to the kids," Costanzo said. "He gave her some good advice."
Thursday's opportunity to meet Dew Tour athletes was an unusual chance to escape hospital rooms and visit with some well-known athletes. What is much more common, Carter-Shaw said, is a lot of kind people no one has ever head of dropping off small items in hopes of brightening the day of some very sick children.
"This has been the biggest thing for us," she said. "But a lot of good people have come here and handed things out, like homemade quilts. It's really amazing and uplifting."
She said the efforts of those who took the time to try and cheer up children they don't even know, inspired her.
"It helps us to see people who are amazing," she said. "It reaffirms that people are good and we're lucky to be in a world with people like that."
Just before they finished visiting, a hospital employee asked the BMX riders could sign posters and T-shirts for two children who were in intensive care and couldn't come to the patio.
Robinson said the meetings were as meaningful to him as they were to the patients."This is the kind of stuff that gives me as much gratification as riding my bike," he said. "I've spent a lot of time in the hospital, and you get depressed. I kind of understand what they're going through and sometimes having someone give you positive thoughts makes a difference."