As gifts go, nothing will ever top the kidney that Madison Anderson received from her dad on April 4.
An upcoming Florida theme park trip may be a distant second, but the three-year-old from Selden got another big gift, one that left her tickled pink, courtesy of junior quarterback Max Martin and some Newfield High School football teammates before their final game of the season.
Dressed as Elmo, as in Tickle Me Elmo of Sesame Street fame, Martin led teammates and friends dressed as Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stitch and Goofy as they charged onto the field to greet Madison and her parents, Greg and Kristen Anderson, in a Make-A-Wish day with a truly happy ending.
And with Christmas just around the corner and a Make-A-Wish trip to Florida in the near future, the Anderson’s are doing just fine.
“She’s doing great," Kristen Anderson said earlier in the week, and she got to meet her favorite character.
“She is Madison our miracle and she’s just happy 24/7,” Anderson said. “She wakes up happy and goes to sleep happy. She’s just a warrior for everything she’s gone through. She’s the strongest little girl. That was so cool of the football players, very sweet and heartwarming. Make A Wish has been amazing and what they do for kids is wonderful. My girl just wanted to hug Elmo.”
Martin had his game face — make that his Elmo face — on for the event in October. “I didn’t want to blow it,” he laughed. “I wanted to make her day. And when I saw her smiling, it was the best thing I’d ever done for someone else.”
As the parade of characters set upon them, the music from Frozen played and a few of her favorite princesses danced around Madison. She clutched at her mom and was excited by the cast of characters — and kept her eyes glued to Elmo.
Martin said he could feel her happiness and the impact Elmo had on her.
“It was a life changing moment for me,” Martin said. “I feel like God put me in that position to be there for her. I was told Elmo was her favorite. I didn’t speak, I just played the role. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. And knowing what she’s been through and why we were there was amazing. I would totally do that again.”
Ethan Campos, a 15-year-old sophomore, wore the Goofy outfit but had some mechanical difficulties with the costume. The two-way lineman broke the zipper in the middle of the shirt and was forced to improvise.
“We found a white shirt that looked like a stomach,” he said. “We made it work.”
Freshman running back Devin Aviles was Stitch, junior wide receiver Kyle Siemieniewicz was Donald Duck, senior lineman Tom Macy was Mickey Mouse and sophomore lineman Pat Ganter was Minnie Mouse. Senior wide receiver John Montes escorted the wondrous menagerie onto the field.
The Wolverines went on to lose that game, 27-20 to Northport, but left the field as huge winners.
“Our student-athletes got to feel that level of gratitude and satisfaction that comes with giving back in your community,” said Newfield High School principal Scott Graviano. “When you can give at that level and feel that satisfaction, it’s an addicting feeling.”
As for Madison, the kidney donated by her dad is doing it’s job so far. “Thankfully, her new kidney is functioning well,” Kristen Anderson said. “Her dad gave her that second chance and really saved her life.”
No word yet on her Christmas wish, although her mom believes it will be Disney-related. “She’s so excited and we’re so blessed in this holiday season,” she said. “She’ll probably take the trip to Disney [World] where dreams do come true.”