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Ryan Encinas is a 5-year-old about to head into Kindergarten. He’s also a cancer survivor formerly diagnosed with Pleuropulmonary Blastoma (PPB), a disease that has an 80% recurrence rate. The young man has proven his ability to persevere, and on Saturday he was able to live out a dream at the FirstEnergy Stadium with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were at the stadium for a practice, but they made it feel like a real game for Encinas, who bravely wanted to get in on the play.
Encinas’ dream came true thanks to the nonprofit, The Littlest Heroes, who helps families of children who have been diagnosed with cancer to deal with the financial and emotional burdens that treatments can bring. The organization thought that helping the 5-year-old to suit up with the team and finish a full play would be a perfect activity for a young boy who has gone through a lot in his life, but who has come out of it with an outgoing and bold personality. In the video chronicling the play, the youngster gets to huddle with the team as they prep for a play and then, after the ball is hiked, Encinas is able to carry the football 50 yards in order to score a touchdown for the team.
According to the Cleveland Browns’ site, coach Rob Chudzinski spoke out after practice to call it a winning day on the field.
“How about that first-round draft pick, Ryan Encinas, scoring the winning touchdown tonight. Anything we can do to make somebody’s day better, I’m all for it.”
The scored touchdown with a little help from running back Trent Richardson was just the crowning moment in a very exciting and football-oriented week for the young man. Earlier in the week, Encinas attended a training camp with the team. He was also given the opportunity to snag some autographs, and even raced against players Quentin Groves and D’Qwell Jackson on the field.
Encinas was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. The disease eventually left him with only a partial lung on his left side. Though doctors were able to remove the massive tumor, he still has to go back to the hospital every three months to get full body scans and make sure the cancer has not returned. Currently, doctors have him slated to go back for these scans for the next three years. That’s a long and difficult row to hoe for a little tyke, but luckily, he gets some moments like the touchdown with the Browns to hold on to during the tough times.
Celebrities and sports teams have frequently been big about bringing a little joy into a cancer patient’s day, with recent examples from Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber coming to mind. However, in a town that really invests in its football, the gesture is an especially important one.