A Canal Winchester boy was able to spend a weekend with his hero in what turned out to be the 13,000th wish granted by the Ohio, Indiana & Kentucky Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Brock Johnson -- known to his friends as "B-rock" -- accompanied his parents, Kristi and Terry, and his brother, Tucker, to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game July 25, where he was able to meet player Brandon Phillips.
Brock, 13, suffers from a rare and life-threatening autoimmune disease.
What made the July 25 baseball game all the more unique, his mother said, was that Brock, has participated in a Make-A-Wish Foundation baseball tournament fundraiser for the past six years, playing second base for the East Side Irish travel baseball team.
"Brock's been sick his whole life and last year, his doctor, Gloria Higgins, asked if I'd ever thought about asking the foundation for a wish for him," Kristi said. "She explained it doesn't mean he's in imminent danger of dying, just that he's got a life-threatening illness. So we let her submit his name and they said yes."
At first, when the family was approached to have Brock be a recipient of funds from this year's baseball tournament, they were hesitant about putting so much focus on him.
However, Kristi said when they found out that Brock would need a bone marrow transplant this year, they decided to accept the offer.
"The transplant will take place September, and so this tournament really reminded us and everyone why we're out there playing," Kristi said. "His team and friends started a Facebook group called B-Rock's Bullpen and ended up raising $15,000 for him.
"The tournament raised about $65,000, which was enough to grant three kids their wishes."
She said Brock loves playing, but it can be hard on him because of his disease, which prevents his blood from clotting. As a result, he bruises easily, his bones are brittle so he's prone to fractures and breaks, and he catches pretty much any cold going around.
"He loves to play and so he doesn't let it stop him like it could," his mom said.
The family makes monthly trips to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, which is studying Brock due to the rarity of his particular condition.
Thanks to the donations and the Make-A-Wish organization, Brock's wish went well beyond just shaking hands with Phillips. He was invited to the team's batting practice, where he was presented with his own "B-Rock" jersey, a personalized and team-autographed Louisville Slugger bat, and got to play catch with Phillips ahead of the game. He also attended the Jay Bruce Sports Camp.
The family also toured the Reds Hall of Fame, went to Kings Island, and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Newport Aquarium.
"Then, the really cool thing was that Brock follows (Phillips) on Twitter, and he started following Brock back," Kristi said. "This was really a trip we'll all remember."
Make-A-Wish Chapter President and CEO Doug Kelly said his organization was honored to grant this wish, like all 13,000 wishes they've managed to grant to date.
"A wish can be a game-changer for a child with a life-threatening medical condition," Kelly said. "It not only brings hope and joy to the child, but their family and all who share the power of a wish.
"It is through the support of the community that we continue to make wishes come true for local kids just like Brock."
According to Kelly, there are currently more than 140 children in southern Ohio waiting for their wishes to come true. Make-A-Wish is in urgent need of volunteers and donors in the southeast Ohio area. For more information, visit ohio.wish.org or call 877-206-9474.