Fifteen-year-old Schreiber High School student Chris Shroyer became a Dallas Cowboy for a day as part of his Make-A-Wish wish and then appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) to tell the tale.
Shroyer was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes—a type of white blood cell—on Oct. 7, 2016. Although Shroyer was given his wish from Make-A-Wish America, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children diagnosed with critical illnesses, in October of 2016 during his first month of chemotherapy treatment, he chose to wait until he was feeling better, so he could have the best time possible without having to worry about anything else.
“I knew I wanted to meet the Cowboys from almost day one,” said Shroyer, who explained he got the, “Why did you choose this as a wish over a vacation?” question frequently. “I feel like with a trip, you can book it with no problem if you’re older and have the money. I feel like meeting sports players and being on the sideline of a professional sports field and getting tickets to the game, you can’t do that whenever you want. You can’t hang out with Ezekiel Elliot, one of the best running backs, whenever you want. It was more of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Shroyer has been a Cowboys fan since he could understand football at about age 5. His love for the team stems from his father, who attended Texas Christian University and became a Cowboys fan when the team had a poor record, so Shroyer’s father would get into games during halftime for free.
“He fell in love with the team and passed [that love] down to me,” said Shroyer.
On Nov. 20, Shroyer and his parents were flown to Dallas and on Nov. 21, the morning before the Thanksgiving Day game, Shroyer was picked up by owner of the Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones’s private bus to be brought to the Cowboys practice facility, The Star. Before stepping off the bus, the GMA cameraman mic’d Shroyer and explained that he would be following Shroyer around for the segment.
“You know how where the football and basketball players enter, they usually have lines or people on each side high-fiving them?” asked Shroyer. “There were two lines of workers for the Dallas Cowboys cheering as I walked in.”
After walking through two outdoor practice fields, Shroyer entered the indoor facility where Shroyer explained the Cowboys practice in so other teams don’t see their plays. On arrival, Shroyer spied the Cowboys practicing walkthroughs of plays.
“I just stood there,” said Shroyer. “I was taking it all in because it was kind of surreal to me.”
After practice, the team got into a huddle and Shroyer was told he would be breaking the huddle.
“I walked over to [Cowboys head coach] Jason Garrett and shook his hand,” gushed Shroyer. “He gave my back story and joked that I’m from New York and a Cowboys fan. I said ‘Cowboys on three, one, two, three Cowboys.’ I tried to say it as loud as possible. Everyone was hyped up and throwing me around like a mosh pit.”
Shroyer met his favorite player, Elliot, who gave the Schreiber sophomore a high-five and a hug.
“It’s really cool to meet your idol,” said Shroyer. “He didn’t say anything that really stuck with me, but his personality and how nice he was and how much it seemed he cared really stuck. Someone can meet someone and they don’t have to care. They can either try to be as nice as possible or take a picture and walk away. Him and Jason Garrett went out to their way to be extremely nice and talk to me. Jason Garrett asked how I was doing and said it was good and to keep going. When he signed his autograph, he wrote ‘stay strong,’ so I think that’s a big encouragement for me right now.”
Shroyer took photos with and got autographs from the players and received a private tour of the facility. The Dallas Cowboys gifted Shroyer a bag filled with a football signed by the whole team, a gift card to the pro shop and a sweatshirt only available to Cowboys staff and players.
On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, a limo arrived at the hotel to whisk Shroyer and his parents off to the game, where he witnessed the Cowboys defeat the Redskins 31-23. But, before the game began, Shroyer had the chance to walk on the field, high-five players and snap more photos.
“I was beside myself excited, but I tried not to show it too much,” said Shroyer of the entire experience.
But his once-in-a-lifetime experience wasn’t over yet.
On Nov. 30, Shroyer stood side by side with Michael Strahan on GMA as he introduced the video of Shroyer’s Cowboys experience.
“We were in the green room and they told me what time I was going on,” said Shroyer. “Then my dad came up with the idea to give Michael Strahan the Cowboys schedule as a joke and a producer in the room said it was a good idea. [Strahan] had no idea I was going to do that. I was a little nervous teasing a six foot, five guy. I tried to stay as calm as possible.”
After Shroyer’s semgent played and GMA cut to the commercial, Shroyer and Strahan talked about the Nov. 29 game where the Cowboys beat the Redskins.
“He said they did a great job and he thinks they’re going to go far,” said Shroyer of the conversation.
When asked what he thinks of the Make-A-Wish organization as a whole, Shroyer said, “I think it’s a great organization and people should be grateful, even people who don’t receive a Make-A-Wish should be grateful for the organization because of what they do for children like me with chronic life-threatening illnesses. People should donate even if it’s only $5 or $10 because they’re making life a lot better than it is. No one, no matter what age, should go through this disease and I hope one day it won’t exist. I think it’s just amazing they do what they do.”
Today, Shroyer said he is doing well, trying to get his schoolwork done and have a positive attitude.
“The number one key is to stay strong and have a positive attitude,” Shroyer advises to others with similar illnesses. “Don’t focus on the predicament you’re in, but focus on what you want to be and where you will be in future.”
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