Happy Friday everyone. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, as you know, so when I heard about what the Carolina Panthers did for an 8-year-old boy named Jack Bolton, I just about melted.
Bolton lives in North Carolina and is a huge Panthers fan. He also suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, an awful genetic disease that attacks muscles in the spinal cord. He’s had the disease from birth and has never walked or crawled.
Jack’s wish was to coach the Panthers, so for one day last week, the team was his.
The whole 5-minute video is great, but my favorite parts are when Coach Ron Rivera reads Jack’s speech to the team, and when QB Cam Newton asks for his autograph.
“He’s been coaching his classmates at recess for several years and thought he was pretty good at it,” Holly Bolton, Jack’s mother, said.
“He doesn’t smile pretty much at all. And I’m trying to think of when I’ve seen him smile that big, and it’s never been that big ever,” Eleanor, Jack’s sister, said.
So good to see teams do stuff like this.
(Another great football story today? Brian Banks, the linebacker who 10 years ago was falsely accused of rape by a school classmate and spent five years in prison, took the field for the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason game. He finally made the NFL. What a great scene.)
**Next up, a story that doesn’t have a happy beginning or middle, but has a pretty incredible ending. A very talented sportswriter named Brandon Sneed (full disclosure: he’s an “e-migo” of mine; we’ve exchanged emails from time to time) has written the remarkable tale of Billy Dillon, a one-time baseball prospect from Florida who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he had nothing to do with.
Sneed did a ton of reporting on this story, and the twists and turns had me dropping my jaw. What makes this a “good news” story, I think, is Dillon’s transformation while in prison, and his complete lack of anger toward his plight now. He seems incredibly well-adjusted in his new life, but man, what happened to him was just outright disgusting.
It’s a long story, but well worth your time. Truly an absorbing tale.
**Finally, a few beautiful photos to send you into the weekend. National Geographic Traveler magazine has announced the winners of its photo contest.
This picture above didn’t win, but I thought it was the most striking. Check out all the honorees here, to see some breathtaking beauty.