Represented in Milwaukee by a contingent of players and front office personnel, the Green Bay Packers Thursday were honored with the 2005 W.I.S.H. (Winner In Sharing Happiness) Award, presented annually by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin.
Throughout the 2004 football season, Packers players and coaches had the opportunity to help Make-A-Wish grant the wishes of several children with life-threatening medical conditions.
A Packers wish includes game tickets, a tour of Lambeau Field and the Packers locker room, attending a Packers practice session -- sometimes with a professional tape job on his or her ankles -- and joining Packers head coach Mike Sherman in calling in the post-practice huddle. After practice, the wish child and his or her family joins the players and coaches in the team's dining room for lunch, pictures and autographs.
"It's truly an honor for us as players to be able to walk over to a kid on the sidelines at practice and just talk to them and be able to put a big smile on their face," said Ahman Green, who accepted the award on behalf of the organization. "It's very humbling to know that some of these kids' only wish is to meet us and I just can't explain how honored it makes us feel to be a small part of their lives."
"Meeting all the players was thrilling, fun, exciting and all of the good things you can think of," said Beau Solomon, who was one of 15 Make-A-Wish children this year to find his name on his own jersey in his own locker next to Brett Favre's in the Packers' locker room. "It was fun meeting Brett and seeing that he's just a regular guy like anybody else. My favorite part was when he was making faces at my baby brother, Max, to make him laugh while we were taking pictures."
A total of 57 children have seen their wishes come true since the Packers first teamed with Make-A-Wish in 1990.
"When your child is sick you try to think of all the positive things," said Beau's father, Nick Solomon, who along with his wife, Jodi, and three other children, Jake, Cole and Max, joined Beau for the experience. "For those few days that we were around the Packers, we honestly felt that he was the luckiest kid in the world. We all feel that we're the luckiest family in the world and that despite the illness, Beau is the luckiest kid in the world.
"Brett identified with Beau in a way that made him feel comfortable and feel special. And the ability for him and all the other Packers that were involved to do that really made that experience very special and something our family will remember forever."
In addition to players Nick Barnett, Al Harris, James Lee and Javon Walker, joining Green on stage for the awards ceremony were Packers manager of community relations Cathy Dworak, community relations assistants Bobbi Jo Eisenreich and Jeanne Zeitler, and Marge Switzer, the team seamstress responsible for stitching the children's names on the jerseys.
"There are so many people throughout the Packers organization that are responsible in making these wishes come true that I would like to thank," said Dworak. "From Red Batty (equipment manager) to Pepper Burruss (head trainer) to Mark Wagner (director of ticket operations) to Bruce Warwick (assistant to the general manager/director of football administration) to Coach Sherman, the players and all of those who are here with me tonight. The entire organization is very proud and honored to assist the Make-A-Wish Foundation in making these wishes come true."
It is anticipated that the proceeds, totaling over $250,000, from the 2005 Host Night Banquet, appropriately titled 'Luck of the Iwish' due to its St. Patrick's Day theme, will allow the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant over 60 wishes.
For more information on the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin, click here.