Timbers team with Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill teen's dream to meet favorite player Zizzo
The draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night put the Portland Timbers in the 10th and final playoff spot. Since only two expansion teams have ever qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in league history, the Timbers becoming the third such franchise to do so would be considered a beautiful wish come true for the Rose City faithful in Soccer City USA.
However, before the rest of the playoff race unfolds, the Portland Timbers and Make-A-Wish Foundation made a lifelong Timbers fan’s wish come true last night.
19-year-old Conall McLeod from Portland has been living his whole life with long QT syndrome, a rare type of life-threatening genetic heart condition. His wish was to bring all of his friends from a social group called “U Say Hello” to a Timbers game. What the Timbers had in store for Conall, his family and his friends far exceeded expectations.
“Conall had this wish and I really just thought we were going to come to a game but the Timbers have been just awesome.” Lisa McLeod, Conall’s mother said. “They gave him a locker in the locker room, it’s really over the top we were not expecting this much.”
Conall and his family arrived at JELD-WEN Field on Monday morning to get their own personal tour of the Timbers home field. When the tour reached the Timbers locker room not only was Conall’s own personalized locker set up with a complete set of Timbers training gear waiting for him, but so was his favorite player, midfielder Sal Zizzo, general manager Gavin Wilkinson, head coach John Spencer and the rest of the Portland Timbers to welcome him as part of the team for the day.
“It’s very flattering,” Zizzo said. “When anybody says you’re their favorite player, especially a great kid like Conall, it is flattering and it was a lot of fun to be with him for the day.”
Conall accompanied his favorite player and the rest of the team out to training at the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation complex in Beaverton where he not only assisted in leading the team in warm ups, but also impressed with his knowledge of the game and the team itself.
“It was a little bit surprising,” Zizzo said. “He knows the whole lineup and everything down to a tee.”
After training, Conall and his family received a catered lunch with the team to finish up his day. However, Conall’s wish was just getting started as Alaska Airlines donated their suite for the game against San Jose to allow Conall to bring all of his friends to a Timbers game just like he wanted.
“It’s good!” Conall said of his experience at the game. “I like it!”
The Timbers Army brought Conall up onto their capo stand during warmups to lead the North End in cheers and following the game’s conclusion Conall was also part of the long-running Timbers tradition, the log slice ceremony. For the first time this season Timbers’ mascot Timber Joey requested assistance in conducting the sacred ceremony and had Conall present Kenny Cooper with the log slice for his ninth minute goal.
“It’s very, very special. The fact that Conall has this heart condition, it allows him to forget about it and we’re not even thinking about it we’re just having a blast.” Lisa McLeod said. “The coaches, the players, the whole staff of the Timbers they’re all so nice and such sincere, wonderful people.”
After the conclusion of all the festivities when asked what was his favorite part, Conall maintained it was the part that started his whole wish all together.
“Cheering on my favorite team, the Timbers!”
It was certainly an experience Conall and his family will never forget, and neither will those who were lucky enough to help turn this wish into reality.
“It’s definitely something I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life, doing something good for a kid like Conall.” Zizzo said. “He’s a great kid and has a good heart, it’s just been a lot of fun.”