Say what you will about Twitter, but it has definitely helped connect people with grassroots social causes, sometimes building enough momentum to inspire celebrities to reach out to those in need. On Monday, such a movement swept up Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson, who was so moved by a hashtag campaign started by the family of a cancer-striken 17-year-old baseball player that the NFL quarterback visited him in the hospital less than 48 hours after Wilson’s first professional season came to an abrupt end in Atlanta.
“He walked in,” 17-year-old Timberline (Wash.) High senior David Padilla told The Olympian, “and it was so surprising. I was nervous.”
Padilla was so surprised because he had no idea Wilson was coming to visit. As reported by The Olympian, Padilla’s sister, Hannah Padilla, and his girlfriend, Amber Lewis, both sent out tweets on Saturday night with the hashtag #PadillaNeedsTheDanger, an allusion to Wilson’s Twitter handle, DangeRussWilson.
Within hours, Hannah Padilla and Lewis’ two tweets were being re-tweeted and copied, with the #PadillaNeedsTheDanger hashtag spreading like wildfire. Throughout Sunday the number of tweets continued to grow and by Monday morning, it had been re-tweeted thousands of times. Eventually Wilson caught sight of the hashtag and immediately offered to come visit ... the same day he saw the hashtag.
“#PadillaNeedsTheDanger I will be there just to come see you!” Wilson tweeted.
On Tuesday morning, there he was. As it turns out, it hasn’t been the first time that Wilson has visited sick children at Seattle Children’s Hospital this year. Quietly, the quarterback and his wife, Ashton, visited sick children each Tuesday morning during the 2012 season. While the weekly trips didn’t get a lot of attention, Wilson and his wife continued of their own accord.
In fact, he only missed Padilla by pure chance: Wilson just hadn’t been on Padilla’s floor yet.
On Tuesday, the quarterback made up for that unintentional slight by spending roughly an hour with Padilla in his private hospital suite. The quarterback signed multiple items for Padilla and his family, but also spent a significant amount of time chatting with Padilla about baseball; Wilson was a minor league baseball player for two years before joining Wisconsin to serve as the school’s starting quarterback for the 2011 season.
The entire scene was a touching one for the entire Padilla family, which has had to deal with David’s surprising diagnosis with osteosarcoma in October. David Padilla has already had a tumor removed, but will still have to go through chemotherapy for the next five months.
For one day that burden was eased by a surprise visitor, all thanks to a sporadic social media campaign dreamed up by Padilla’s sister and girlfriend.
“We didn’t know we had that many connections around the state,” Hannah Padilla said. “It was amazing.”