– From Chris Riley –
Shortly after moving to California in 2002, my son Ian was diagnosed with a rare immune deficiency called Common Variable Immune Deficiency. Worldwide there are only about 50,000 known cases. We quickly came to find out that UCLA Medical Center has some of the foremost researchers in my son’s disease. Over the course of the next 4 years, we spent a full day there every 2-3 weeks. During that time, my son become a fan of everything UCLA, especially UCLA football. The fact that the team wasn’t the greatest had no bearing on his love for the Bruins. The time that he spent in the hospital on campus made UCLA, “his school”. Before I ever took Ian to a game I took him to a concert at the Rose Bowl. His eyes lit up when he saw the stadium. At one point in the evening he even begged the security guy to let him on the field so he could touch the grass where UCLA played.
I eventually took Ian to see his first college football game. It was when Maurice Jones-Drew was a Bruin and they were playing Arizona State. We got to the game early and parked on the golf course. It was a televised evening game so we BBQ’d dinner and took in all of the things that make college football tailgating fun. Getting a chance to hang out with, play catch with and talk about the Bruins with other fans is something my son still talks about today. Prior to the game the UCLA Alumni Marching band played and led a large group of the crowd into the Rose Bowl. We went in and watched Jones-Drew put on a clinic of how to run the football. That night UCLA won big, but as a parent I won big as well. My son got to live out a dream he had of seeing his favorite college football team win. The game was really no more than an afterthought as much as it was an opportunity to see my son at one of his truly happiest moments.
As the years have gone by with therapy, my son has grown healthier and we don’t spend as much time at UCLA as we once did. Ian spent many years as a travel hockey player and now he is a high school freshmen playing for Quartz Hill High’s football team. As a result, we haven’t been to many games. But UCLA is still his school and Bruins football is still his passion. When the Bruins are on TV you will find Ian glued to the set regardless of the outcome. I grew up near Seattle, Washington. So I went to a lot of Huskie games growing up. But there was no game more exciting or more special than the time I took Ian to see his first Bruin game. It is a truly awesome memory that I will carry with me to my grave.