By Josh Gill
When 12-year-old Jason Andrews walked into the Chi Omega room in the Stacey Riddle Forum at 2 p.m. last Sunday side by side with LaPlace, La., sophomore Rico Gathers, forward for the Baylor men’s basketball team, he did so to the cheers of over 100 members of the sorority.
The cheers did not end there, as Jason was also graced by the welcome of Magnolia junior Joe Kirkland, pitcher for the Baylor baseball team, Waco wrestler David Hill, and Baylor basketball coach Tim Maloney.
Chi Omega and the Baylor Athletics department created a sports-themed party in partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for Jason, known to most as Jase, in support of his lifelong fight with eight congenital heart disorders and to celebrate his wish for this summer.
Jase’s mother, Julie Andrews, said Jase’s wish has four parts — to be at a Boston Red Sox game played against the New York Yankees, throw the ceremonial first pitch at that game, participate in batting practice with Dustin Pedroia and meet an ESPN sports commentator.
While the Make-A-Wish Foundation may not be able to make Jase’s entire wish become a reality, Jase said he knows that part of it will come true this summer.
“I’m going to go meet the Red Sox and throw the first pitch this summer,” Jase said.
Jase’s struggle with heart disorders started at birth.
“He was born with eight congenital heart defects and as a part of working with other families who were dealing with congenital heart defects, we got connected to the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Mrs. Andrews said.
She said Jase’s heart condition has required three open-heart surgeries, the first of which he underwent at three days old.
The surgery, along with the next a few months later and the third at age 3 1/2, was successful, but the journey is not yet over for Jase.
“So we are having a heart catherization on May 12 to go in and work some tweaks on his heart,” Mrs. Andrews said. “This procedure is really new. The really great thing is, if this is successful, it can keep us out of open-heart surgery for 15 to 20 years.”
As for why the party was thrown last Sunday, Mrs. Andrews said the timing had a purpose.
“We wanted to be able to do it at a time when we couldn’t provide something for him,” Mrs. Andrews said.
“So, when he turned 12, that’s a challenging age for a boy being a little different. He has to go through so many hardships dealing with this heart condition — things that kids should never have to deal with. I have a lot of dreams for him that may never come true, so this was a way to make one his dreams come true for him.”
Justin Andrews, Jase’s 18-year-old older brother, said he admires his younger brother and was happy about what Chi Omega, the Baylor athletics department and the Make-A-Wish Foundation were doing for Jase.
“He acts like a normal kid, but he’s not a normal kid on the inside,” Justin said. “He went through so much when he was little. He had three open heart surgeries when he was little, but now he gets to be rewarded for pushing through all that pain and sacrifice.”
John Andrews, Jase’s father, said he was astounded by Chi Omega’s support for Jase. “It is just amazing – the efforts that [they] have gone to to support him above and beyond anything we could ask for,” Mr. Andrews said. “It’s just like the Mastercard commercial: ‘Priceless.’”
On Saturday, Jase tailgated at the Baylor baseball game with Alpha Tau Omega and Chi Omega, met the Baylor Baseball team before the game, threw the first pitch of the game and delivered his own rendition of “Let’s play ball.”
“The coach requested it,” Jase said. “I said, ‘Let’s get it started!’”
Jase said he wants to be at the Masters when he gets older and wants to be a sports analyst.
Gathers said he was touched by Jase’s story.
“A kid like that, just going through what he’s going through, he’s going to be real tough growing up,” Gathers said. “He’s going to get to the Masters just like he said. Just meeting him and hearing his story — I’m ready to go get in the gym right now. That type of stuff motivates me. I’m real glad I had the opportunity to be here.”