Make-A-Wish goes beyond granting a wish

By: Brittany Hamor

Ever since Collin Wehr was 6 he would read the newspaper with his father, Ray Wehr, at the breakfast table in their Chicago home.  They would discuss the stats and the latest injuries to their favorite football team, the Chicago Bears.

His sister, Ramsay Wehr, used to run down the stairs to the kitchen every morning, belting out the latest country hits on the radio. She never cared about sports. All she ever wanted to do was move to Nashville and become a famous country artist.

That dream quickly changed when Collin was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He took his final breath on March 20, 2013 at only 11, and that’s when she knew she was going to carry on his legacy.  Ramsay, 19, then set herself on the path to become an aspiring sports broadcaster who is immersed in athletic communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Collin was a normal third grade student at the time. He loved playing sports and socializing with other classmates.

He rarely missed a day of school, so when he started getting flu-like symptoms for weeks at a time his parents grew concerned.

They made an appointment at Children’s Memorial Center in Chicago where he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that’s wrapped about the brain stem, according to the St. Jude’s website.

At 10 he went through five surgeries, chemotherapy, a spinal fusion, hearing loss, a feeding tube and many hours of physical therapy.

“I remember him playing sports and our dad would always coach the team. Their favorite was football though,” Ramsay Wehr said. “But when he got sick his dream of being a professional football player transformed into reporting about football. Sometimes you have to change your dream when your faced with obstacles.”

Collin always had a huge personality. He would talk with all the doctors about all the NFL players’ latest injuries, playoff or game predictions and stats for every NFL team with NFL Network in the background.

“Any time there was a football game on the nurses and doctors would sit there and watch him call plays and color commentate,” Ramsay Wehr said. “Even at his young age he had a gift for sports broadcasting.”

When the Wehr family called Make-A-Wish they were not sure how long Collin had left. Four days later the foundation came knocking on the hospital door.

“They asked him what he wanted for his wish,” Ramsay Wehr said. “He thought about it for a little while, stared them right in the eye and said you know I just really want a guitar.”

That’s when Make-A-Wish taught him their motto: “Think bigger.”

“He looked around the room and noticed the TV,” Ramsay Wehr said. “The Chicago Bear’s game was on, and his eyes lit up.”

His wish was to be an NFL Network Bears beat reporter for the day. He was joined by his favorite NFL Network analyst, Tom Waddle.  This was where Ramsay Wehr was exposed to the world of broadcasting.

The Make-A-Wish foundation was able to fly a whole NFL Network crew from Los Angeles to Chicago. The crew consisted of two camera men, two audio assistants, one producer and one assistant producer in December 2013.

“I got to meet and interact with this group of people all day and watch them interview all kinds of people,” Ramsay Wehr said. “I finally understood why he was so interested in sports broadcasting and that’s when I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Collin was able to stand in the crowd with other reporters in order to interview the players before the game. All the excitement in this moment did not phase Collin. He was a natural. This was his dream and he was soaking up every second.

“I got nervous when everyone kept telling me to watch Collin because fighting for the interviews can get intense,” Ray Wehr said. “It brought tears to my eyes when all of the reporters stopped and lined up behind him so he could get the interviews he wanted.”

Collin’s Make-A-Wish was not only a pivotal moment in his life, but in Ramsay Wehr’s too. This is where the bond between Collin and Ramsay grew stronger.

“Sports have always meant a lot to Ramsay and her family. It was their way of bonding. When I joined the family, metaphorically of course, they taught me all about sports,” said Cassandra Louie, Ramsay Wehr’s best friend. “Through her brother’s make a wish, Ramsay was able to find a way to combine her love of sports and of performance. I can’t wait to see her on ESPN someday, knock on wood!”

Six months later Collin passed away after two years of fighting his cancer.

“Make-A-Wish showed me that my brother and I had a common dream,” Ramsay Wehr said. “When he passed I knew one day or another we were going to reach it.”

Shortly after Collin passed away, it was time for Ramsay to apply to universities. All she knew about college was that she wanted to go into sports broadcasting and turned to a guidance counselor to seek advice.

“I was a mess when it was time to pick colleges. He (the guidance counselor) suggested I check out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” Ramsay Wehr said. “When I went on tour I instantly fell in love with the college because they had all the things I wanted, like hands on experience in my field.”

She made it her goal to get as involved as she could her freshman year to make sure she could get to be a part of HuskerVision during her sophomore year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Aside from live game entertainment HuskerVision also works to produce Nebraska Athletics Television content that airs nationally on the Big Ten Network as well as through local affiliates. Over 100 fully produced television shows each year provide national exposure to Nebraska athletics,” according to the Huskers website.

As a freshman, she was involved in the Media Smarts learning community, Chi Omega sorority, president of Sandoz Hall government, Residence Hall Association speaker of the house and the director of volleyball and wrestling at Iron N.

“When she has a goal she goes after it with everything she has got,” said Joan Wehr, mother of Ramsay and Collin. “I am so proud of and in awe of all her hard work to make a career in broadcasting a reality.”

Now the Make-A-Wish gift has gone full circle, as a member of Chi Omega their philanthropy is helping create wishes for other Make-A-Wish children. The sorority has hosted a “Wing Fling” every year since 2002 and has raised almost $13 million. The Wing Fling gives students access to unlimited wings for $6 and all the proceeds go to making a child’s wish come true.

“She’s always the first one to volunteer for anything during this philanthropy,” said Kensie Burnside, Wehr’s sorority sister. “Seeing how motivated she is about everything she does makes her a person aspire to be.”

Make-A-Wish gave her and her brother the opportunity to bond over their love of sports broadcasting during his last few months. She vows to give back to them in any way possible because what the foundation did for her is something she’ll cherish for a lifetime.

“I volunteer a lot of hours during this philanthropy because it’s so close to my heart,” Ramsay Wehr said. “If I am lucky enough to be working in a professional field I promise I will be the first one to make their wish come true. The impact Make-A-Wish has on these kids is priceless.”

Her main goal is to work for ESPN or NFL Network after graduation and hopes to get an internship with either company next summer.

Her brother is what motivates her to achieve all her goals and strive to have a future in the professional football world.

“I can’t wait to see where my future takes me, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my little brother,” Ramsay Wehr said.


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