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news News Tuesday, January 14, 2020 Tuesday, January 14, 2020 3:12 PM - Tuesday, January 14, 2020 3:12 PM

National Patient Ambassador, Cristian, speechless at East West Shrine Bowl jersey presentation to Austin Lee

National Patient Ambassador, Cristian, speechless at East West Shrine Bowl jersey presentation to Austin Lee

November 25, 2019, was one of the best days of Cristian’s life. The Shriners Hospitals for Children National Patient Ambassador, who started as a freshman at Brigham Young University (BYU) last fall, was invited to the football team’s practice.

Cristian was excited to present a special jersey to one of the players and invite him to play in the 2020 East West Shrine Bowl. When he showed up to practice, he was met with a big surprise. He was expecting a tour of the football facility to meet the team and present Austin Lee with his jersey. But when he arrived, it was so much more.

After the tour, accompanied by Imperial Sir Kenny Craven, Cristian was brought to the practice field and watched part of practice from the sidelines. Then, when practice was over, the team made their way to him shouting and cheering. Austin Lee, defensive back, who Cristian was ready to make his presentation to, approached him with a bag of goodies.

“Cristian,” said Lee, “man, we appreciate you! Thanks for coming out. We heard about your story. We heard about what you’re going through. It’s very inspiring for us.”

Cristian was shocked to learn that before the practice, the team had learned his story. Born with spina bifida, Cristian had endured surgeries and hard work to achieve the mobility he has today, with the help of Shriners Hospitals for Children. “I was surprised to hear the team tell me how much they admire and look up to me for the things I have gone through with my disability,” said Cristian.

Before Cristian had the chance to present Austin with his jersey, Austin started pulling things out of the BYU bag in his hand. “He gave me a bag full of BYU merchandise,” Cristian said. “A bunch of T-shirts, a football, tie, hat, water bottle and a jersey with my name on the back of it! That was seriously one of the coolest things to ever happen to me.” When it was Cristian’s turn to present Austin with a jersey for the East West Shrine Bowl, he found himself at a loss for words. “I was supposed to say more to the team and to Austin than what came out of my mouth, but I was seriously speechless at what they did for me.”

Cristian watches almost every football game and is excited that Austin Lee will be playing in the upcoming East West Shrine Bowl benefitting the hospital system he loves. “After getting to know Austin a little more,” said Cristian, “I can't think of a more deserving player to be in the game.”

As the 2020 East West Shrine Bowl approaches, Cristian looks forward to the Cougars having a player on the field at the national game in Florida this month. “It is incredible to know that Brigham Young University will be represented,” said Cristian. “Especially since this will be my first time attending the game!”

Beyond having his school represented, it means even more to Cristian that Austin accepted the offer to play in the game for another reason. “Because as a player,” said Cristian, “he will be representing Shriners Hospitals for Children, which has made it possible for me to go to college, and BYU, my dream college. Knowing what the game represents and how it benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children, that jersey, to me, is a symbol of all the children who will be helped by Shriners Hospitals in the future.”

Watch Cristian’s unforgettable day with the BYU football team.

Tune in to the NFL Network January 18, 2020 to watch the East West Shrine Bowl and cheer on Austin Lee and our other players from Utah schools; Dominik Eberle (USU), Tyler Huntley (UofU), Darrin Paulo (UofU) and John Penisini (UofU).

Cristian with Kenny Craven, Austin Lee and coachAustin Lee