Charlie DeGrange will never forget the afternoon he spent with the Oakland Raiders.
At eight years old Charlie is already in the fight of his life, battling an inoperable brain tumor. But he was able to live out his dream by spending time with his favorite team during Raiders training camp practice in Napa on Wednesday.
|Charlie, his father, and grandfather with QB Derek Carr. Photo by Tony Gonzales|
Accompanied by his father and grandfather, Charlie received VIP treatment, meeting a selection of Raiders Legends including Willie Brown and Morris Bradshaw as he roamed the sidelines in his Raiders hat and Derek Carr jersey. Head Coach Dennis Allen also took some time during practice to meet the young man.
Despite all of the attention from the former players, the Fresno native had no reservations about vocalizing the highlight of his practice session.
"I met Derek Carr and he signed my football and my jersey," Charlie said. "Derek is my favorite on the team."
As excited as Charlie was to meet his favorite player, his visit may have left an even bigger impression on Carr.
"It almost brings a tear to my eye," said Carr. "Obviously, he's going through a lot right now and his family is going through a lot right now. He is so happy today to be out here and to hang out. Hopefully I could make him smile a little bit, just put a little bit of joy and love in his heart. If I could do that, then it was all worth it."
The past several months, Charlie has been making regular visits to the hospital, even undergoing a radiation treatment Wednesday before heading up to Napa, and his father Greg said that days like Wednesday help return a sense of normalcy to his little boy.
"This stuff is great for him," said Greg. "I've been watching the Raiders forever, but I'm just standing back and letting him go. This is his day. This is his moment."
The afternoon was truly a family affair, as Charlie's grandfather, also Greg, was able to accompany his son and grandson on an outing they'll never forget.
Charlie's grandparents now take care of his three younger siblings so that his parents can focus on Charlie's day-to-day treatment, and the opportunity to spend an afternoon with his son and grandson watching Raiders football meant a great deal to his grandfather.
"It means everything," said the elder Greg. "These are cherished times, they really are. We want to spend as many great moments with him as we can moving forward."
Charlie DeGrange, who is in the fight of his life, visited Training Camp and inspired all of the Raiders players.
Charlie's grandfather, who has been a Raiders fan since 1972, had season tickets for nearly a decade and instilled his love of the Silver and Black in his son and then eventually his grandson.
"My son has been raised a Raiders fan and now Charlie as well. We've always been a part of the Raider Nation, so this is just a really great experience for all three of us."
He continued, "What's really amazing is how we feel like the whole Raider organization is aware of his presence, from the parking lot to the lobby and onto the field. Everybody is aware of his presence and that means a lot. That says a lot."
The afternoon belonged to Charlie, and following the conclusion of practice, Coach Allen invited Charlie to break down the huddle.
"We're going through the dog days of training camp, and we think it's pretty tough, but right now we have Charlie DeGrange, and he's battling an inoperable brain tumor," Coach Allen explained to the team. "This guy's battling and we need to be able to do the same, playing the game of football."
From there, Charlie officially ended practice and became the star of the show. All of the Raiders made sure to stop by and give him a high-five, an autograph or their gloves on the way to the locker room. He even got pictures with Khalil Mack and Charles Woodson. He then continued on to the equipment room and tried on his very own pair of shoulder pads.
The afternoon was a busy one for Charlie and his guests, but it's not one they will soon forget.
Charlie DeGrange is still in the fight of his life, but days like Wednesday help make the bad days just a little bit better.
For more information on Charlie and his journey, you can visit https://www.facebook.com/SupportCharlieDeGrange