Make-A-Wish Foundation grants Eagan boy his big dream: to meet Brett Favre
by Erin Johnson, Thisweek Newspapers
It takes a certain amount of bravery to be a diehard Packers fan in Vikings country.
And Conor Smith, 11, of Eagan knows a thing or two about bravery after enduring months of chemotherapy treatments and weekly spinal taps that will continue through next June.
“He’s a tough kid,” Conor’s father Tim said.
Conor, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September, was recently chosen by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have his wish come true: to meet Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
“He’s a great player, and he’s really nice and funny,” Conor said.
It wasn’t the leukemia, however, that made him eligible for Make-A-Wish.
He originally submitted his wish after doctors found a tumor on his brain stem in March.
The tumor was inoperable and had to be treated with five months of chemotherapy. The tumor was successfully eradicated, and the Smiths thought the worst was behind them.
About a month later, Conor began having severe leg pains and was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
“It was like a kick in the stomach,” Tim said. “We thought we were done. It was the last thing I was expecting to hear that day.”
Fulfilling his wish to meet Favre was a bright spot during an otherwise dark time for Conor.
When he got the call that his wish was approved, Conor said, “I ran outside and was yelling to my dad, ‘Dad I’m going to meet Brett Favre!’?”
The whole experience ended up exceeding the family’s expectations.
“They just thought of everything,” Conor’s mom Hope said. “It just was a really cool
The Smiths were flown to Green Bay the weekend of the Packers-Vikings game on Nov. 11.
They arrived Nov. 9 and got a behind-the-scenes tour of Lambeau Field, where Conor found a locker with his name on it next to Favre’s, complete with a custom jersey and a football. Then the Smiths were taken to the Packers’ training facility to watch the team practice, where they got some one-on-one time with Favre.
“He came over and talked with us for like 10 minutes, and then he signed a Brett Favre jersey that I have and a picture and a ball,” Conor said. “And after that, we got to go inside the huddle and say, ‘1-2-3 break!’ That was cool.”
When Conor told Favre he was from Minnesota, Favre joked, “You’re not a Vikings fan, are you? We’d have to kick you out.”
After practice the Smiths got to eat lunch with the players, where Conor chatted with wide receiver Donald Driver as he waited in line for food, and nearly every player signed his football.
When he first met Favre, Conor said it felt weird after years of watching him on TV.
“I was kind of shy, but then he talked a lot and he was really nice,” he said.
Conor’s parents were equally impressed.
“What was your favorite part, Mom?” Conor asked, already knowing what her answer would be.
“When he (Favre) hugged me,” Hope replied. “I told him, ‘Every woman that I talked to wanted me to give you a hug from them.’ And he said, ‘OK.'”
Tim was impressed with how good Favre was with the children he met.
“He related to them well,” Tim said. “It wasn’t one of those ‘Hi’ and ‘Goodbye’ kind of things. He took time to talk to them and sign autographs and take pictures. It was really nice.”
The Smiths spent Saturday visiting the Packers Hall of Fame and being treated like royalty at local restaurants before Sunday’s game.
“Wherever we went, if they knew we were with Make-A-Wish, it was first class,” Tim said. “It was unbelievable.”
On game day — after tailgating, of course — Conor got to go onto the field while the players were warming up.
“We had really good seats — we were nine rows up in the corner of the end zone,” he said. “The first touchdown came right at us.”
Conor has been a big Favre fan for as long as he can remember, something his father, an Eau Claire native and loyal Packers supporter, is happy to encourage.
“A lot of people have asked if that was my Make-A-Wish or if it was Conor’s,” he said, laughing. “It was like a dream come true.”
“Between these two, I don’t know who was more excited to meet Brett Favre,” Hope said.
Even though all of his friends are Vikings fans, Conor said they were still impressed with his green-and-gold adventure.
“None of them like the Packers, but they all thought it was really cool,” he said.
The experience has helped bolster Conor’s spirits through a difficult time, Hope said.
“When he’s going through the treatments and some of the hard times, you have to have something positive to keep thinking of, just to help you get through it,” she said, “because it gets tough.”
Tim asked Conor if the experience was as good as he expected.
“Better,” Conor said.
He added, “The hot dogs at the game were incredible.”
Erin Johnson is at firstname.lastname@example.org.