It is hard to contain the excitement that comes from taking photos with a favorite 49ers player, collecting a football full of autographs, or shaking the hand of someone like the team's leading rusher, Frank Gore. However, the feeling of being calm, cool, and collected must escalate to balance the exhilaration as quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tight end Vernon Davis hand over the same gloves they wear on game day. For eight year old Jacob Murphy, that moment was the icing on the cake for a memorable weekend hosted by the San Francisco 49ers through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Jacob suffers from cardiomyopathy, a condition affecting the heart muscle which has prevented him from participating in team sports for the majority of his life. When the Make-A-Wish Foundation discovered that Jacob's wish was to meet his favorite football team, they immediately contacted the 49ers to make it happen. One Saturday morning, Jacob and his family arrived at the 49ers Training Facility in a black stretch limo, ready to kick off a first-class experience with an exclusive tour of 49ers Headquarters.
"The Make-A-Wish Foundation has a mission to enhance a child's experience with strength, hope and joy," stated 49ers Community Relations Specialist, Heather Curry and current Chair of the Young Professional Advisory Council for Make-A-Wish of the Greater Bay Area. "By partnering with the 49ers we aim to make the child's wish as magical as possible."
After walking the red and gold hallways featuring 49ers Hall of Fame jerseys and artwork portraying the rich history of the franchise, Jacob and his family made their way to the practice field to watch the team's final preparations for Sunday's matchup. Jacob immediately and enthusiastically pointed towards his favorite players – including Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Joe Staley and Michael Crabtree – as he took his seat on the sidelines. Jacob watched intently, identifying players and drills as he has done since he was a toddler, watching the television or acting as the waterboy and assistant for his youth football team in Sacramento.
"He has always been a huge football fan," said Jacob's father, Jacob Sr. "His uncle introduced him to the 49ers and he has been a diehard fan of the team ever since."
Practice came to an end and Jacob took his place on 49ers Way, the pathway leading to the team's locker room. With a blank white panel football in hand, he anxiously awaited the autographs and handshakes of his favorite athletes. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick removed his gloves and gave them to Jacob as a special memento from a memorable day. Running back Frank Gore added his signature to Jacob's Gore jersey, sending an experience full of surprises over the top.
"This experience means everything to Jacob," expressed Becky Johnson, Jacob's mother, "This past year we have faced the unimaginable. Yet last week we received good news regarding his condition, and this has been the perfect way to celebrate."
Jacob's family spent the rest of the day exploring San Francisco and preparing for game day. Sunday's pregame festivities included Jacob cheering on the team from the field during pregame warm-ups. The family found their seats and enjoyed a close game between the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. Despite the outcome, Jacob's visit acted as a reminder that life is not all about the wins and losses on the field, but the victories that keep individuals moving forward and provide them with another chance.
"For the 49ers it is incredible to know that a child like Jacob can wish for anything in the world, and wishes to meet our team," stated Curry, "Our organization understands the value of that and his visit becomes a very humbling experience for all and one that will stick with us for a lifetime."