Last month, we shared with you the story of young Louis Corbett, a 12-year-old New Zealand boy with a degenerative eye disease who will one day (perhaps sooner rather than later) render him legally blind, whose parents have been trying to expose him to as many experiences as possible to help him build a "visual database" of as "as many environments, colours and graphics as possible before he goes blind," and whose "biggest wish" before losing his sight was to watch the Boston Celtics play basketball, live and in person, one time. Louis' wish came true on Wednesday night.
Thanks to an international fundraising effort that received a significant signal boost from Celtics blog Red's Army (and specifically blogger/video maven Jay Ouellette, a.k.a. @MrTrpleDouble10), the Celtics began working with the Corbett family last month to coordinate a trip to Boston. With the aid of Warren Casey, who is both the CEO of Boston-based software/IT company Ceiba Solutions and a neighbor of the Corbetts in New Zealand, more than $25,000 was raised in four weeks to get Louis and his family over to the States for a journey that will include visits to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, Google's California headquarters and Wednesday's trip to the TD Garden to watch the C's take on the Golden State Warriors.
That Wednesday had previously been scheduled as Perkins School for the Blind Night at the Garden was something of a serendipitous coincidence. Corinne Grousbeck, wife of Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, is the incoming chair of the Perkins School; the Grousbecks' son, Campbell, had been blinded by a condition similar to Louis', according to CNN:
"I completely understood where the Corbetts were coming from in wanting to build a visual memory bank for (Louie)," Grousbeck said. "It's an incredibly difficult thing to have to go through." [...] "Of course when I read about how he was a big Celtics fan, I knew that we had to have him come for a game," she said.
While Grousbeck made sure Louie and his family had great seats — practically on the Celtics bench — she says the real show was the Perkins chorus singing the national anthem.
"I think for a 12-year-old like Louie, for him to be able to watch visually-impaired kids perform the national anthem on a national stage, for him to see what blind people can achieve, that's going to give him the lasting memory," she said.
We're willing to bet that being brought out to half-court during a stoppage in play, introduced by the public address announcer and receiving a standing ovation will last pretty long, too. Ditto for having the opportunity to meet his favorite player, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who said after the game that Corbett made an impact on him, too, according to Jay King of MassLive.com:
"He came in the locker room before the game," Rondo says. "He met me. I didn’t know I was his favorite player. We had some words. Very happy kid. What he’s going through, he still has a smile on his face. He’s very humble. Because we all get to do what we love to do for a living and you never know, at any moment, it could be taken from you. You just try not to take anything for granted."
(Rondo must've appreciated that reminder; he autographed his game shoes and had a Celtics employee give them to Louis.)
It made a pretty significant impression on Celtics forward Jeff Green, too. The 27-year-old swingman, who missed the entire 2011-12 season after surgery to repair an aneurysm in his heart, also gave Louis his game sneakers and spoke after the game about how meeting children like Louis affects him. From NESN.com's Ben Watanabe:
“It is tough to meet a kid going through what he is going through,” Green said. “His overall spirit, really, in spite of the game, put a smile on my face because he is going through something that is going to be with him for life. We can get down over little things and then you have a kid who is about to have a surgery in a couple of weeks (or) who is going to be blind, and right now he is enjoying life a day at a time.
“I look up to kids like that,” Green added. “Even though he is younger than me, he inspires me to get better each day. I just wish the best for him and pray for him every day.”
Unfortunately, Louis didn't get to see the Celtics at their all-time best. (This is a significant understatement.) The reeling squad dropped a 108-88 decision in which Boston trailed by as many as 31 points, all 11 Warriors who played scored (led by 18 apiece from Klay Thompson and David Lee) and the Celtics were down double-digits for most of the final 42 or so minutes of the contest. That (obviously) bothered Brad Stevens, but the Celtics head coach maintained some perspective after the game, according to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:
“I’m really disappointed in how we played for a lot of reasons, and I certainly would have liked to play better for he and his family,” the Celtics coach said. “It’s the way we should be. It’s the way organizations should be. You should give back to the community. You shouldn’t be applauded for it. You should just do it. I’m glad he had a good night even though we didn’t play well.”
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