Sports can be a way to help cope with some of the adversities that life might throw.
Since 2017, five-year-old, Long Beach native Hector Sandoval has been battling stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Sandoval is one of the biggest Los Angeles Rams fans around and when his favorite player, star running back Todd Gurley, surprised him with two tickets to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, it made a difference.
(Click to Visit Website)
“Little Hector is the strongest person I’ve been around and has spirit,” Hector’s father, Hector Sandoval said. “It’s hard to put into words how this helped us, but what the Rams did for him, they have a fan for life.”
Hector, though only five-years-old has already made a big impact on the communities he belongs to in Long Beach including Long Beach Pop Warner, St. John Bosco's youth wrestling program, and Our Lady of Refuge School, where he attended before his diagnosis. His impact and courage caught the eye of the NFL as well.
The Rams gave away five trips to Super Bowl LII, celebrating fans in the community who’ve made an impact on others. The Rams’ front office said that Sandoval’s passion and love for the team, even through the trying times, was moving.
“At the Rams, we always talk about using our platform to create memories and impact lives,” Molly Higgins, the Rams’ vice president of community affairs and engagement, said. “(Gurley) certainly was able to create some special memories for the Sandoval family, but he said he was deeply impacted as well.”
In December, Gurley and other members of the Rams’ services team visited young Sandoval in Long Beach to surprise him with the tickets. The Sandoval family knew someone from the organization was coming, but had no idea it would be his favorite player.
“It caught us all by surprise,” Sandoval’s father said. “It was amazing and (Gurley) is a crazy cool guy.”
“With all that weight in the game, you’d think he would be egotistical,” he added. “But he’s humble, down to earth, and a complete class act.”
The Sandoval family said Gurley stayed for two to three hours playing Legos with Sandoval before leaving even though the Rams’ services team tried to get him out of there.
According to his father, Sandoval finished his final treatment of radiation the Friday before Super Bowl weekend. Miller Children’s Hospital made sure to get him ready for his big trip.
Sandoval and his father flew to Minnesota this past weekend to enjoy the Super Bowl and all of the festivities that go along with it. They stayed in a hotel just four blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, got to jump to the front of every line during fan fest, and had field passes for the game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
Sandoval’s father says he has one last scan before being declared in remission, but has come a long way since his diagnosis.
“Through all the treatment and restrictions, it was a scary time, but now we feel good,” he said. “I can’t stop singing the praises of the Los Angeles Rams.”