Ten-year-old Jailen Cooper has had a rough couple of years. In 2006, his beloved grandfather, Linwood May, suffered a heart attack and passed away. For Jailen, a young boy without a father, May was the male role model in his life, who inspired him through a love of football.
"They'd give each other a pound before they'd leave each other and [May] would say, 'Raiders forever,'" [Jessie] Cooper said. "That was the last thing he said to him."
Just a year later, doctors discovered Jailen had a brain tumor. At first, they weren't alarmed -- but by December, 2008, Jailen needed surgery. After the tumor was removed, Jailen had to undergo a strict regimen of chemotherapy.
Now, a year and a half later, things are looking up for Jailen -- who has completed his cancer treatment -- and enjoys the sympathy his scar receives from his female classmates.
The Make A Wish Foundation, a national nonprofit that brings dreams alive for kids battling serious illnesses, recently gave Jailen the experience of a lifetime. ESPN.com reports Jailen was flown out from his home in North Carolina to California to play football with his favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.
Jailen was overcome with excitement when he got to meet his icon, running back Darren McFadden, but that wasn't the only treat in store.
McFadden took Jailen to the locker room, where Jailen found out that he had a locker of his very own, complete with jerseys, T-shirts, gym bags, backpacks and a real Raiders helmet signed by every player on the team. At 22 years old, McFadden is still a big kid. He threw in some special gifts he got just for Jailen -- gospel CDs, a remote control spider to "scare his sister" and a night light. He also gave Jailen some brand new cleats.
The 10-year-old got to attend practice with McFadden and the rest of the Raiders players. As the practice came to a cross, the team gathered around for the moment they had been waiting for -- Jailen's chance to tackle his hero. Aiming for the number on his jersey, Jailen eagerly took McFadden down.