The Washington Capitals partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic to grant five-year-old William Shannon his wish to be a Washington Capital for a day. William, who is currently battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, along with his seven-year-old sister Emily and parents Devin and Sandra, traveled from Shepherdstown, W.Va., to attend the Capitals practice on April 1 and the game against the Buffalo Sabres on April 2.
The Shannons were greeted at Kettler Capitals Iceplex before the team hit the ice by Caps staff members who presented goody bags to both William and Emily. The goody bags consisted of jerseys, T-shirts, hats, bobbeheads, game programs and plenty of other Caps memorabilia provided by both the team and the Washington Capitals Fan Club. The family was then escorted to the practice rink where the Fan Club had hung a huge sign at the top of the bleachers welcoming William to the Caps. The Shannon family was seated right on the glass to watch practice, and the players started to take to the ice.
As it was an optional skate, not all of the players were practicing, including Alex Ovechkin
– one of William’s favorite players. But Ovi did not disappoint. He came over to meet the Shannons at the start of practice, giving William one of his sticks, signing autographs and taking pictures with the family. A few minutes later, head coach Bruce Boudreau stopped by to introduce himself and let William know that he would be skating with the Caps. William had conveniently brought all of his hockey equipment, and his face lit up when he learned he’d be skating with his favorite team.
William then headed to the locker room to get suited up. Once inside, he found that he had his very own stall with a personalized Caps nameplate. In the stall was more Caps gear, including an Ovechkin Winter Classic jersey and a Capitals hard hat. Also hanging up were his skates, looking very much like Ovechkin’s with his yellow laces. Once William was dressed, it was time to hit the ice.
Caps alternate captain Jason Chimera
escorted William onto the ice where they joined assistant coach Bob Woods, defenseman Mike Green
and left wing DJ King
. Once William was warmed up, goaltender Semyon Varlamov got between the pipes and Woods called for a shootout. William quickly racked up three goals, the crowd cheering loudly each time he scored.
As he was leaving the ice, Caps general manager George McPhee greeted William and asked about signing a contract. Before the five-year-old could answer, Comcast SportsNet broadcaster Joe Beninati interjected that he was William’s agent and would handle all negotiations. William excitedly announced, “Hey, I know you from TV,” to Beninati, who proceeded to call a goal for William. Beninati also invited William to stop by the Comcast SportsNet booth at the game the next night. William then headed back to the locker room where he did several interviews from his stall - just a typical day as a Caps player.
After so much excitement, the Shannon family finally left the rink, walking across the street for lunch at the Front Page Arlington. There, they were treated to lunch by owner Jorge Fernandez and also chatted with Caps defenseman John Carlson
and Boudreau, who also happened to be having lunch there.
When the Shannon family arrived at Verizon Center the next evening, they learned that they would be watching the game from Ovi’s Crazy 8s. After getting settled into their seats and receiving their foam 8s, the family was surprised to find out that they would all be watching the teams warm up from the penalty box. There, William got to sit at the scorer’s table next to announcer Wes Johnson. When the teams cleared the ice, it was time for William and his family to head back to their seats to cheer on the Caps.
During the first period, the Shannons were escorted to the Capitals press box, located on the sixth floor of the Verizon Center, where they made two stops. First up was the Comcast SportsNet booth, where William was reunited with Beninati and also met Craig Laughlin. The CSN team had William put on a headset so he could hear them calling the game. William then stopped by the instant replay booth, where he was put in charge of answering the phone. While it was fun to watch the game from the press box, William was eager to head back watch the action from his seats, much closer to the ice.
Before the second intermission William received another surprise, he would be riding the Olympia Ice-Resurfacer. William and his family headed down to the event level, passing the Georgetown, Wizards, Mystics and Capitals locker rooms. The family had to stop and take a photo in front of the Caps locker room. They even got to watch the end of the first period from the ice level. While on the ice, William was formally welcomed and introduced to the crowd by Wes, and he was even put up on the video board. On the way back to their seats, a Verizon Center employee gave Emily a game puck since she didn’t get to ride the Olympia. William was a little sad that he didn’t get a puck until he learned that after the game he was going to participate in the Caps Jerseys Off Our Backs promotion and get the game-worn jersey from one of his favorite players, Alexander Semin
Shortly after the third period started, William and his mom met on the main concourse with all the Jerseys Off Our Back winners. The group was escorted to the event level where they watched the majority of the third period on television. With two minutes left, the Caps were down by a goal and the group had to move closer to the visiting team’s bench so they could be ready to get on the ice as soon as the game ended. This meant the group wouldn’t see the end of the game. However, as the winners were getting organized, they heard the horn sound – Jason Arnott had tied the game for the Caps. This meant more waiting without watching, but William and the rest of the jersey winners were thrilled when they heard the horn again and learned that Ovechkin had scored to win the game.
All of the winners were escorted to the ice where they lined up to receive their jerseys. William waited patiently as he waited to pull his number out of the envelope and reveal to the fans that he was getting Semin’s jersey. Finally, the time arrived. Semin saw the 28, skated over to William, signed his jersey, and then lifted William up as they took photos together. It was the perfect ending to the two-day Make-A-Wish experience for William, the honorary Washington Capital.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980 when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world.
For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic, including how you can help refer a local child from Maryland, Northern Virginia, Delaware or the District of Columbia for a wish as well as sponsor a wish or donate in-kind gifts of goods, services or airline frequent flier miles, please call (301) 962-9474 or visit www.midatlantic.wish.org.
The West Virginia chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was formed in 1989. Since inception, this Chapter has made 951wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions.Click here to see photos from the day