This year, four ESPN feature producers — Tina Cerbone, Lydelle King, Lauren Stowell and Kris Schwartz — worked on five stories for the eighth annual SportsCenter “My Wish” series. The summer series, the result of a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, shows prominent sports figures working to grant requests of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The “My Wish” series has now been part of 46 granted wishes.
Front Row spoke to Coordinating Producer Valerie Gordon and Cerbone, who personally spearheaded two segments. The 6 p.m. ET Thursday edition of SportsCenter will feature a recap of all five wishes, which features appearances from members of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, as well as NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne and tennis star Roger Federer.
Why is this among your favorite assignments?
“My Wish” is an incredibly rewarding series to oversee. Collaborating with our team of talented and hard-working feature producers and with [host] Chris Connelly, one of the best storytellers in the business, hardly feels like work. It’s great to bring joy to such deserving kids and to document both their struggles and successes.
For the second year in a row and as part of ESPN’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, ESPN Deportes will air the series Mi Deseo (My Wish). The series premieres Sunday, Sept. 15, and consists of four features that will air on consecutive Sundays and tell the stories of children who have faced life-threatening diseases and who are able to make a dream come true thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation. This year, the wishes include Roger Federer, the LA Dodgers, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and for the first time an International wish with Argentinean emblematic soccer club River Plate. The English- language version of the Brady wish also will air on “NFL Countdown” Week 3.
How did you get involved?
“My Wish” has been a Features Unit project since its inception. I have been involved since 2009 and am thankful that Senior Coordinating Producer Victor Vitarelli continues to extend me the opportunity. In addition to the great features you see on TV, we produce ESPN Radio versions for The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap, the digital media team publishes companion articles and interviews and this year, more than ever, the social media team is really promoting the series via extra content on all social outlets.
What was it like working on two segments?
It was a privilege to produce two pieces for the series. While I was waiting on a response from [tennis star] Roger Federer on whether his schedule would permit him to do the “My Wish” segment, I began setting up the [Seattle] Seahawks’ wish [involving quarterback Russell Wilson, who played flag football with 12-year-old heart patient Kevin Lee]. When I got word that Roger would do it at Wimbledon, I was thrilled — this would be our first international “My Wish” segment. As with all pieces, there is a lot of planning and coordination, but when you see the happiness these children experience, after learning what they are dealing with, it is an honor to be able to tell their story.
Can you tell us a little about working on both experiences?
Beatriz Tinoco, a 17-year-old tennis player, has been battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her wish with Federer took place at the All England Club during The Wimbledon Championships. The one-on-one time she spent with Roger will likely be something she remembers and treasures the most from her trip. Roger was truly genuine and answered all of her questions sincerely. He really wanted to get to know her on a personal level.
From [head coach] Pete Carroll on down, the Seahawks organization was a pleasure work with. They made sure Kevin’s wish would be memorable long before he arrived. A message was sent out to all players and staff that Kevin would be coming to their practice facility, and they were excited to be included.
The staff and local media attended his press conference, many made signs to welcome him to the team, and past players took time during practice to talk to his family. While Kevin’s wish was to meet his favorite player, Wilson, other Seahawks players including Golden Tate, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Percy Harvin came up for a simple hello or to play catch or show him how to punt, or even stop by at lunch to get a little one on one time with his family.