INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)- A special guest will appear just before the Colts’ kickoff against the Pittsburg Steelers. The guest is a teen from Riley Hospital for Children, and the Franklin native will take the center field for the opening coin toss. News 8 spoke with the honorary team captain about this one-of-a-kind experience.
Riley is passing the torch to Ethan McHenry. The coin toss is a long-time tradition at Riley, one Ethan doesn’t take lightly. He’s a sophomore at Franklin Community High School, and he’s excited about hitting the field among some of his favorite players. Ethan is active with the school’s IHSAA Unified Flag Football and track team, and last season they won big at sectionals and conference.
“As soon as I figured out what that sport was, I got into it,” McHenry said.
Many people don’t know he was born with a hypoplastic left heart off the field, a condition that was detected before his birth. As a baby, doctors performed three life-saving open heart surgeries.
“Don’t look at it as a bad thing. Look at it as a gift,” McHenry said.
After years of treatment, he continues to be monitored by the Riley cardiology team.
“It recently went from six months to annually, which is a good thing. It shows they know what they are doing, they are learning, and it is getting better,” McHenry said.
The hospital saw it fit to select Ethan to be a ‘Riley Coin Toss Kid’ at the Colts vs. Pittsburg Steelers Monday night football game. “I found out that my parents knew something that I was going to be doing. They kind of held on to that secret for a couple of days, and it would drive me nuts. Then they finally told me, and it is like the coolest news I have heard in my entire life,” McHenry said.
Before every home game, a patient from Riley does the official coin toss before the start of the game. Ethan will now follow in the footsteps of other children overcoming medical conditions.
“I tried to hide it for a couple of years. I realized that wasn’t getting me anywhere, and as soon as I started to open up, I found a lot more friends and people who cared about me,” McHenry said.
While fans pack out Lucas Oil Stadium, Ethan will hit the center field. “It’s a big deal. I am honored they chose me out of hundreds and thousands of other patients they have. It is truly an honor, and I am going to carry that with pride.”
Ethan plans to attend the big game with family and a friend from school, and gets to hang out on the sidelines.
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