Two years ago at a school book fair, Tess Mountain got her first Dwyane Wade poster.
She’d been a football fan up to that point, but suddenly, Wade was her guy, and basketball was her sport. After doing some Internet research over the winter, Tess learned that Wade had written a book, A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball, and she asked for it for Christmas. Now, the 13-year-old from St. Paul is also the proud owner of a Heat jersey, Heat hat and Wade bobblehead, to boot, and she spends hours at the hoop in her family’s backyard practicing her shot.
But Mountain isn’t your average Miami fan. She suffers from Cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, a disorder that affects her heart, facial features and skin, and is a Special Olympics athlete. (She plays basketball, of course.) Her mother, Sara, said she’s not sure how her daughter got onto the Wade bandwagon, but Monday, after years of being one of the Heat guard’s biggest fans, Tess’ dream came true.
Last Wednesday, one of Tess’ older sisters, Elizabeth, and her friends at Marquette University (Wade’s alma mater) set up a Facebook page titled “Let’s Get Tess to Meet Dwyane Wade.” That came after Sara mentioned to her older daughter that it might be fun for Tess to meet Wade when the Heat were in Minneapolis – the family had tickets to attend the game, after all. It was an offhand comment, Sara said, admitting that never in her wildest dreams did she think her wish for Tess would come true.
In the first 24 hours the page was active on Facebook, it received about 800 “likes,” Sara said, and as of Thursday evening, that number was up to 1,858. People were reaching out to the Mountains from all across the Twin Cities community, and the wheels began turning. The family worked some connections, and it didn’t take long for a plan to form: Tess was going to meet Wade.
Tess and her family attended the game that night, the 13-year-old in her Miami hat and jersey. They watched the Heat beat the Timberwolves, 97-81, but, more important, Tess and two of her sisters had passes to go into the tunnel and meet Wade. They decided to stand and watch players run off the court before heading back, and as Wade ran by, he recognized Tess without having met her, waved, and told the girls he’d be right back. When he returned, he met Tess and her sisters and spoke with them for a few minutes. “I think that she was so nervous that she could barely look at him,” Sara said, laughing.
In the days since Monday, Tess’ excitement has barely faltered, Sara said. Her teachers played the video of her at the game to her class, and her family has seen her story and photos popping up all over the Internet.
It’s a night none of them will ever forget, and suffice it to say, Tess Mountain may truly be Dwyane Wade’s No. 1 fan.