If Gracie Bagadiong was walking in the clouds after throwing out the first pitch at a recent Cincinnati Reds game, on Sunday she’ll be roping the moon.
The 10-year-old Mason girl with special needs will be treated to a surprise visit with the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders before watching the Colts take on the Buffalo Bills that afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Stephanie Pemberton, senior director of community relations for the Colts, read about Gracie’s first pitch in a story published Sept. 22 by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Gracie was selected for the honor by the pulmonary department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which hosted a special Reds night for patients and their families.
The Mason Intermediate fourth grader suffers from an undiagnosed neuromuscular condition that’s left her wheelchair-bound and on a ventilator for the past two years. She’s also deaf, has low vision and peripheral nerve damage has left her without use of her arms.
That story referenced Gracie’s dreams of seeing herself on the Jumbotron at Great American Ballpark and becoming a Colts cheerleader.
The organization reached out and offered Gracie and her family four lower-level tickets to Sunday’s game valued at $500, a parking pass, pre-game sideline seats and the rare chance to meet the Colts cheerleaders before the game.
The opportunity is an exclusive one, indeed.
Only a “limited number” of people are invited to pre-game sideline visits and “very few” get to meet the Colts cheerleaders one-on-one in their locker room, said Pemberton.
“When you read something like that, and you see how much Gracie has had to work through and overcome at such a young age – and then you know that you have the opportunity to be a part of that – that’s what it’s all about,” she said. “Her story is one that touched our hearts and to be able to be a part of that story, it’s awesome.”
Gracie’s condition is a medical mystery that’s baffled doctors since her symptoms began at age 3, says her mother, Cherie Bagadiong. She’s required round-the-clock nursing care for the past two years.
Even so, Gracie hasn’t let her limitations limit her, say her parents. She’s a cheerleader on a team for children with special needs and loves to watch the Colts cheerleaders — dad Nolan’s favorite team.
“She only watches the games for the cheerleaders,” said Cherie.
Two months later, Gracie is still talking about her first pitch captured on the Jumbotron, say her parents. Meeting the Colts cheerleaders will be an experience she won’t soon forget.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Cherie. “Everyone likes to meet their heroes.”