There is much more to Bryce Harper than what meets the eye. His depth of character for a young man his age is astounding. Harper’s Heroes is a charitable endeavor that Bryce Harper started when he was just 20-years-old as a way to give back to the Washington, D.C. community’s less fortunate. Bryce teamed up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to start a grassroots approach to work directly with children affected by blood cancers.
“The creation of Harper’s Heroes three years ago has given young children touched by blood cancer a day away from cancer and a day that they will never forget,” said Whitney Klinke who is the Director of Donor Development for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of the DC Chapter.
“Spending time with Bryce, asking questions during a mock press conference, enjoying batting practice and a NATS game means so much to these kids and their families. We are deeply appreciative for Bryce’s long-standing support, financial contributions, compassion for patients and the much needed awareness he continues to create for the LLS mission.”
You might notice in the photo (above) that Bryce was not wearing his traditional Harper’s Heroes shirt, and we blew up the photo and asked Whitney Klinke about the Jason’s Bullpen logo that was printed on the shirt that Bryce was wearing. That led to a touching story of a 5-year-old named Jason who was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2015, and his parents designed this baseball inspired shirt in honor of young Jason. We spoke to Jason’s mother, Christine, about their lives with a son who was diagnosed as a toddler, and fortunately they are halfway through their treatments with a year and a half to go. The prognosis is very good, but the road has been difficult.
Christine signed Jason up last year to participate in Harper’s Heroes, but Jason was too sick to attend then. The good news was that Jason was feeling well enough to make it this year to meet Bryce. It turns out Jason is a huge Nats fan and plays T-ball on a team in Arlington. Their family used to live within blocks of RFK stadium and have been partial plan holders since 2005 when the Nats arrived in town.
The Jason’s Bullpen shirt was a great idea for the family, and they do everything as a family including when they all initially shaved their heads through St. Baldrick’s last year. Jason is still in pre-school, and loves to draw and doodle. His favorite part of meeting Bryce he said was that Bryce liked a poster board sign that he made for him.
“Harper’s Heroes has been a bonding experience where children with the same type of cancer can get together and meet around baseball,” Christine said. “Bryce was such a nice guy. We gave him a shirt and he put it on immediately and without hesitation. Jason was so happy that his favorite baseball player was wearing the same shirt as he was.”
Bryce Harper has also been involved with other charitable efforts as you have seen with his involvement with youth baseball, and the Play Ball initiative. Recently, Bryce was contacted by the producers of ESPN’s My Wish as they hoped Bryce would grant a wish for a kidney transplant patient in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Bryce eagerly agreed to take this on. If you have never seen a segment of My Wish you can view previous episodes here. They are very well produced, and there usually is not a dry eye in the room after watching an episode.
The Bryce Harper segment of My Wish on ESPN will air Tuesday, July 19 (6 p.m.) and from the ESPN press release, “Bryce Harper: Fifteen-year-old Kaylan King from Frederick, Md., will fulfill her dream of hanging out with Washington Nationals MVP outfielder Bryce Harper – thanks to the new kidney she received from her mother.”
At the May 21st Make-A-Wish gala in Washington, D.C., Kaylan learned that she was chosen to get her wish granted on a video with an invitation from Bryce Harper himself.
“I couldn’t hear [the video reveal] because I was crying through the whole thing,” Kaylan King said upon hearing she was selected to meet Bryce Harper as part of her wish.
Bryce and Kaylan and her family got together during the Saturday game against the Cincinnati Reds on July 2nd, and her day at Nationals Park started with a tour of the stadium, and the behind the scenes parts usually only reserved for players and VIPs. Kaylan received her own #34 Nats jersey with her first name KAYLAN on the back, and then Bryce and Kaylan played catch and finished up in the indoor batting cages. Kaylan threw the ceremonial first pitch to Bryce, and then was able to watch the game with her family from premium seats. Before the game, the group headed over to the Under Armour store in the Tyson’s Corner Mall for a shopping spree where the real surprise happened as Kaylan did not know that Bryce was going to be there. Bryce held clothes for Kaylan while suggesting apparel for her. Lastly, Bryce presented her with a new pair of Harper One cleats that were not available to the public at the time.
“Best…day…ever,” Kaylan said. “It’s hard to recreate. It’s been more than I could imagine. It’s been great.”
From birth, Kaylan fought kidney issues, and at the age of 14 she got a kidney transplant from her mother. Kaylan has always found a way to persevere and overcome her medical issues, but sometimes the issues were too much. Kaylan tried out for her High School’s softball team as a freshman and got through one scrimmage and then had some medical issues and then had the kidney transplant which kept her from playing that season in 2015. Fortunately, Kaylan tried out again her sophomore year for the softball team, and she impressed the coaches so much she bypassed the JV team to make the Varsity team. She just finished playing her varsity season as a sophomore at Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland, and was one of the stand-outs on her team as a top outfielder, and Kaylan can also swing a good bat.
Kaylan’s teammates love her for the person she is as a friend, a player, but also as an inspiration. Bridgette Barbour, who is headed to Penn State, was a High School senior this past season, and a teammate with Kaylan at Northwest High School. Bridgette made it clear that Kaylan made the team based on ability.
“We all knew what Kaylan was going through with her medical issues,” Barbour said. “We were playing for each other, but also for her. She was motivation for our team…Never used her sickness as an excuse. She’s a great person.”
Bridgette and Kaylan talk all the time, and they are excited to see the final cut of the My Wish segment on ESPN.
Kaylan is also a huge Washington Nationals fan and has attended several games. Before her day with Bryce, her favorite Nats game was easy to pick as Kaylan was in attendance for Max Scherzer‘s no-hitter last June in Nationals Park. Bryce Harper just happens to be her favorite Nats player, and that is why she chose him to fulfill her wish.
“Kaylan, she’s a sweet spirit,” Bryce Harper said to MLB.com. “I’m very happy that I was able to do that [My Wish request] and the whole team, the whole organization, they really took part in that. I can’t thank them enough as well for letting her come in and do what she wanted to do.”
Bryce Harper is special in so many ways, and he has now added ‘wish grantor’ to something else he is good at. He is not a genie, just a genuinely good person.
If you missed the “My Wish” segment, you can watch it in it’s entirety on this ESPN link: