Seton Hill athletes grant wish to local teenager

Brady Hunker (center) smiles as Samara Silverstein (right), Make-A-Wish development coordinator for greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and Emily Hutsko (left), president of the SHU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, announce his wish to travel to Aruba has been granted. SAAC raised over $8,000 to grant Hunker’s wish, and he was surprised with the announcement during the baseball team’s doubleheader on April 22. Photo by D.Clark/Setonian.

At first it seemed like just a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but 15-year-old Brady Hunker had no idea that Seton Hill University had a much larger surprise for him.

Between the baseball team’s doubleheader on April 22, the SHU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) told Hunker that his wish to travel to Aruba was granted. The teenager from Mt. Pleasant, Pa. was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2016.

According to SAAC President Emily Hutsko, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is the main charity that the PSAC focuses on. Every year, schools within the conference and throughout Division II nationwide try to raise the most money for the foundation. SAAC raised over $8,000 during the 2015-2016 school year, enabling SHU to grant a wish during the current school year.

“Making our goal and knowing that we were going to help someone and make a huge difference in someone’s life was just awesome,” Hutsko said. “Actually being there last Saturday and seeing the family and meeting Brady was just phenomenal because we actually got to physically see the effect of all our hard work.”

Brady Hunker (center) holds his enlarged boarding pass to Aruba as he poses with Emily Hutsko, his family, Samara Silverstein and Seton Hill President Mary Finger. Photo by D.Clark/Setonian.

After Make-A-Wish matched Hunker to SHU, he came to SHU’s baseball games under the impression that he would be speaking at a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish. When Hunker went up to the field between the games to give his speech for the “fundraiser,” he was presented with an enlarged boarding pass to look like his plane ticket to Aruba.

“I was honestly shocked because I thought he knew he was getting the wish,” said Hutsko, who learned the announcement would be a surprise right before the baseball games. “His family knew, so you could tell that they were really excited, but seeing his reaction whenever they announced that he was getting the wish was just awesome.”

Hutsko and others decorated everything beach-themed in honor of Hunker’s trip to Aruba. SAAC also set up a concession stand during the games and donated all of the proceeds to Make-A-Wish.

Members of the Seton Hill baseball team shake hands with Brady Hunker after he is told that his wish has been granted. Photo by D.Clark/Setonian.

“Being involved in this whole thing and seeing a wish being granted, it literally changed my life,” Hutsko said. “Making that connection with Brady and seeing how that bond was formed was awesome, and it’s something I definitely want to continue to help and work with.”

Along with hosting the Make-A-Wish announcement, the baseball team also honored Brandon Rumbaugh between games on April 28. Rumbaugh was on the baseball team for one semester before joining the Marine Corps, and he was presented with the baseball jersey that he would have worn ten years ago.

SAAC also hosted its first “Griffin Sports Awards” on April 30 to close out the semester. Hutsko will be returning for one more semester, and even though she will not be an athlete, she wants to continue being involved with Make-A-Wish in the future.

“A lot of times, especially in college, we kind of get caught up in our daily lives, but setting aside a couple minutes at a basketball game or a couple minutes at the bake sale to help is a hundred percent worth it,” Hutsko said. “You might feel overwhelmed at the time, but last week, seeing that was all worth it and I want to do it again.”

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