Sometimes life’s journey takes us to places we never thought possible, and in some cases even the smallest gifts on the bravest of battlefields brings out the best in the hearts of warriors, whether it’s in the NFL, a war zone in Afghanistan, or a person’s battle against a debilitating disease. For the New York Jets as an organization, winning or losing is not always about football. For one 17 year-old, he received an incredible surprise Christmas gift, courtesy of the New York Jets. Connor Morgan of Northport, New York, has been dealing with the battle of a malignant, inoperable Grade 2 Astrocytoma on his brain stem for the last three years. He has Neurofibromatosis 1, a neurological disorder which causes low muscle tone, scoliosis, and learning disabilities, which predisposed him to developing tumors in his central and peripheral nervous system.
On the morning of December 23rd, Connor was told that a special visitor was coming over to talk to him about his favorite team, but there is much more to this story than just a Christmas surprise for Connor.
The collision course between Connor and another special young man, Nick Singh, of Ronkonkoma, New York, who was a National Youth of the Year recipient for the Boys & Girls Club of America, seemed inevitable given Singh’s relentless and unwavering connection to those affected by debilitating diseases. At the young age of 21, Singh has been a Wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a number of years now, and in a rare opportunity provided to him by some incredibly caring people, Chuka Erike and Jets CBS Late Night Sports analyst and philanthropist, Erik Coleman, a former standout safety who played 9 years in the NFL, Singh was able to secure an unforgettable on-field experience at MetLife Stadium with Coaches Club access tickets to this past weekend’s game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets. “That is awesome work what Nick is doing,” Coleman stated.
Singh met Connor through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where last year Connor wished to go to Ireland with his family. Being a wish granter, Singh’s job is to grant the Wishes for children who are battling critical illnesses, but he never wants it to end there. Singh said that he continuously looks for ways to enhance their experiences outside of the Foundation to keep it going for Wish children, developing long-lasting relationships with the kids and their families. Singh said, “I am all about the selfless mission of these organizations in lifelong giving and friendships I create with people who fight a greater battle than me, regardless of the outcome. It’s who I am.”
Connor’s illness is a parent’s worst nightmare. Connor’s father Steven Morgan said, “We were fortunate that after Connor stopped Chemo, he gained weight, strengthened, and his condition has now been stable for the past couple years.” When Connor developed a Brain tumor he underwent a craniotomy at LIJ in January 2016. A tumor biopsy was obtained, but the tumor could not be removed because it was infiltrated with healthy brain tissue. Connor subsequently had a port placed and had chemotherapy with Vincristine and Carboplatin weekly for 8 months. The chemotherapy caused side effects – most significantly peripheral neuropathy in his hands and feet. Connor began seeing doctors at NYU and had put the chemotherapy on hold because it was not effective and was causing negative side effects. The Neuro oncologist ordered MRI’s of his brain every 3 months to monitor the tumor. The prognosis of his tumor prohibited him from doing things an average teenager can do like eating whatever he wants, playing sports, and going to school for a long period of time.
Being a diehard Jets fan, Connor enjoys watching the game every week with his father, as they continually spend quality bonding time together. This past week however, instead of watching the game on television, the Jets gave Connor an experience he will memorize forever with not only his father, but his best friend Kieran, who has been by his side like a brother since they were in Kindergarten. “This was the most amazing experience of my life,” an emotional Connor told Singh.
It was a hero’s day all the way around. Singh said, “I live for days like this, to see people like Connor as a hero.” Connor reassured Singh a valuable lesson, “When life throws you challenges, just keep going with positivity and to always have a smile on your face.” The entire day spent with Connor, Singh said he never saw Connor’s bright smile lift from his face.
“My son is the glue to this family,” Steven Morgan shared. When Connor was on the gurney with doctors getting ready to wheel him in to OR for surgery, doctors told him to say whatever he’d like to his mom and dad. Out of all things, Connor asked if he could have corned beef sandwich after surgery. As soon as he woke up after surgery, first thing he asked his parents was could he have his sandwich? “I had it waiting for him,” Steven said. “And to doctor’s surprise, Connor gobbled it up!”
Both of his parents were very emotional through that process, but Connor has been nothing short of brave, optimistic, and cooperative through all of the obstacles he has faced his entire life, and is truly an inspiration to everyone around him.
The New York Jets may have given Connor and his family an experience they will never forget, but Connor also played part hero in this story. “I am glad I could help make his day a little brighter,” Coleman stated.