Sitting in her wheelchair inside the New York Mets clubhouse, Peri Finkelstein said she was in awe as her favorite player, David Wright, reached out and touched her hand.
“I was speechless,” said Peri, 13, of West Hempstead, recalling the encounter she had with her favorite Met on June 16. “I couldn’t help it, because he was so cute.”
Peri remembers Wright complimenting her on the pink New York Mets’ bracelet she was wearing and her orange-and-blue fingernails, the team's colors, which her sister, Katy, 21, had painted. He spent about 30 minutes speaking with Peri, her parents, siblings, doctor, and Lawrence Pleskow, president of the California-based charity When U Dream A Dream, which facilitated the meeting.
Since forming his nonprofit 11 years ago, Pleskow, 57, of Beverly Hills, Calif., says the organization has granted more than 1,000 dreams for children with physical disabilities like Peri, who was diagnosed at 8 months old with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called nemaline rod myopathy.
Although he’s not a big baseball fan, Pleskow added, “I will now root for David Wright the rest of my living life.”
Peri’s mother, Lori Finkelstein, 47, said Wright was very sweet and genuine, adding, “He was so giving of his time .?.?. I’ve never met such a down-to-earth guy.”
Wright, 30, not only left a strong impression on Peri and her entourage, but he also left his mark on her wheelchair. Using a marker, he wrote, “Peri, Lots of Love!” on it, and added his name and jersey number.
Pleskow presented Wright with an engraved crystal vase from When U Dream A Dream for his graciousness, but Peri also had a gift for the third baseman. She gave him the “Team Lifeline” jersey she wore when she completed the ING Miami Half Marathon in January with her family.
For the past four years, the Finkelsteins have participated in the 13.1-mile race, pushing Peri in a running stroller, and they have raised more than $39,000 for Chai Lifeline, an international nonprofit that provides services to children suffering with life-threatening illnesses and serious chronic or genetic conditions.
This month marks Peri’s fifth year at Chai Lifeline’s two-week handicapped accessible summer camp in upstate Glen Spey, where she enjoys swimming, baking and candle making.
“Peri has been so lucky in her life .?.?. and she pays it forward by raising money for kids like her,” Lori Finkelstein said she told Wright.
Upon hearing this, Wright ran into the Mets locker room and returned with one of his jerseys for the upcoming All-Star Game, in which he will serve as captain of the National League's team at the Home Run Derby. Wright signed the jersey and handed it to Peri.
“I would’ve been happy with a sock,” Lori Finkelstein said.
The memorable day also included field level access during batting practice, a stadium tour, a shopping spree courtesy of When U Dream A Dream, and a 4-3 Mets’ victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“I was so happy for Peri,” said Dr. Andria Chizner, 45, who treats Peri at Long Island Pediatric Group’s Franklin Square office. “Life is not easy for her .?.?. but she does what she wants to do despite all her physical challenges. She has a little fire in her.”