One of the greatest times in my life has been the day I found out I would be a grandmother. When our youngest grandson, Collin, was born with a heart condition, the joyous moment also came with worry. Not understanding completely what would occur, we focused on the fact that our little baby boy had arrived.
Still, we knew the time would come when we would have to face the reality that Collin has to endure some concerning procedures and surgeries.
For starters, at two months old, Collin had to undergo cardiac catheterization; a balloon procedure that would open his valve to compensate for the fact that he had only two (not three) valves that made his heart work. From that day on, it has been very long doctor appointments every six months for him and his family.
Now, at seven years old, Collin has learned to take the appointments as part of a necessary routine that he has to do. Additionally, his younger sister, Hailey, has been by his side; both of them doing their best to be patient and well-behaved.
What are we all waiting for at these six month intervals…the news that it’s time for Collin to have open-heart surgery. Once the surgery occurs, he will need at least two or three more open-heart surgeries…as his body and heart continues to grow.
Collin has been diagnosed with aortic stenosis and aortic insufficiency bicuspid aorta valve. These conditions now prevent him from playing football, weight lifting, and wrestling; which includes wrestling with his family and friends. For such an active child, not being able to do such activities seems unfair and unkind…but it is the unfortunate reality.
As a grandmother, it breaks my heart to see my grandson have difficulty with his heart. With the news that Collin would never be able to play football again, I was compelled to write a letter to our local news station.
Story sent to WCPO 9 News: A little boy’s dream
To: Bengal Authority
Hello – My name is Kimberly Mitchell, and I am the grandmother of a seven-year-old little boy, Collin Michael Schmidt. Collin was born with a congenital heart defect, and at two-months-old he needed a balloon procedure to open his valve. The procedure is a temporary fix until that day when the doctor will say that open heart surgeries begin for him.
Since then, Collin spends time at Children’s Hospital every few months for any procedures and semi-annual check-ups to see if his heart has enlarged yet. So far, they’ve been able to increase his meds to accommodate the heart. We know time is running out, but are grateful for as much time as God will allow.
This little boy’s dream has always been to grow up to be a Bengal player…and to prove it, he plays on his own second grade team, the Harrison Wildcats.
Sadly, a few weeks ago, it was confirmed by the doctor what we already knew would come…after these last few games, he can never play football again. He can never play football, wrestle, or lift weights…ever.
Collin is heartbroken. His family is heartbroken. Yes, he is only seven, but a dream is a dream. He goes to every practice (two to three times a week), he stands patiently on the sideline waiting for the chance to play, and even approached his coach one time; asking what he had to do to earn his spot back on first string.
As some may feel this is no big deal, all I can say is my heart broke one of his last games. Not just because he didn’t play that day, but because in that moment it hit home for me about all the firsts he will miss. He can’t wrestle with his cousins and friends, he can’t attempt to grow his thin body with the healthy choice of weightlifting, and now one of his big dreams has to find an alternative route.
Somehow, I would like to make a special day for him; something that could make his time in football one that is memorable and special. I love that this family has so much Bengal loyalty, and I think something with the Bengals could make this little boy’s dream complete.
I was hoping to find out if your organization does anything special for kids like Collin. I am not sure what to ask, but is there a chance to get them on the field during no game (or game), or if any of the players would be willing to meet Collin or his team? All I really know for certain is that A.J. Green is his all-time favorite.
I don’t know if you can help me put a smile on this little boy’s face, and make the ending of his football playing career one to be remembered, but I know if I don’t ask, I will always regret it.
Thank you for any help you can offer me.
Kimberly Mitchell, Grandmother of Collin Michael Schmidt
In just a few short hours, I heard back from WCPO that they liked Collin’s story, and in a few short days, the date was set for him to meet the Bengals…with hope that he would meet A.J. Green, too. His day would be Halloween, October 31, 2014.
To make this as special as possible, I handed the reigns to mom and dad for them to decide when and where they would share the news with Collin. They chose to surprise him on the day of the event; sharing also the surprise that his coach, Harrison Wildcats Coach Nate Young, would be joining us. We knew him joining us would be the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae!
Take a moment and watch the story WCPO shared of Collin’s day
Watch: Bengals show heart by welcoming ailing boy
CINCINNATI – Collin Schmidt’s greatest goal in life was to play for the Bengals.
But at age 7, his football career is over.
“My dream was to play for, um, the Bengals, but I can’t play because I have something wrong with my heart,” Schmidt said.
The second-grader was born with aortic stenosis, the obstruction of blood flow across the aortic valve.
He will need open heart surgery to live.
Schmidt’s mom said a recent doctor’s visit signaled the end of his football dreams – but there was one dream that could still be fulfilled.
Collin wanted to hang out with A.J. Green.
That’s when WCPO stepped in to help Collin meet his hero.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
“Collin was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE! Simply adorable. Jeff loved him. I’m so glad this worked out! Thank you for letting us be a part of it!” ~ Tanya O’Rourke WCPO
“What a great post and note from Collin. I truly enjoyed my time hosting Collin and your family. He is a special boy that made a wonderful impression. I will be thinking of him and praying all goes well for him. Marvin Lewis told him football can always be in his life through coaching. I know his Coach offered Collin a chance to coach with him next year, so he can continue to be a part of the sport and team he loves.” ~ Jeff Berding
Not only did he have a fabulous day with the Bengals, but it was Halloween…and the best part of his day was still that morning on the field! He got to meet A.J. Green, Marvin Lewis, Andy Dalton, along with many other Bengals players; not to mention, he was the only kid allowed on the field that day. What a way to impress this little boy!
Since that day, he was recognized at his football banquet by Coach Nate and the team, he got to attend an actual Bengals game, and most importantly, he was told that he could be the assistant coach for his Harrison Wildcats team next year; allowing him to continue on with his football dream. I gave him a book with over five hundred pictures of his year in football so that he has a constant reminder of how special he felt through the kindness of the Bengals and the sportsmanship of his Harrison team.
Most recently, Collin and I started to work on a book of his story, and hope that we can get it published in the near future.
Yes, there are some scary times ahead for Collin, and we can only hope he is taking it in stride. God will take care of him, and we as a family will learn and grow through the love and support that will be needed for such a journey.
God bless everyone who helped make this little boy happy in light of such sad news, for the blessings you offered, and for giving Collin a lifelong story to tell…which he continues to tell when he meets someone new. Thanks to Zac Pitts, Tanya O’Rourke, Jeff Berding, and Coach Nate Young for making Collin’s day one to remember.
A note from mom:
Here are pictures I took of his time with the Bengals: