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Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Dayton Dragons will host 14-year-old Alex Hilgeford during the unique Anthem Home Run for Life program on Wednesday, May 31, at 7:00 p.m., when the Dayton Dragons take on the South Bend Cubs at Fifth Third Field.
The Anthem Home Run for Life program provides children in the Dayton region who are battling serious medical conditions with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Each honoree gets to take a lap around the bases at Fifth Third Field during a sold-out Dragons home game while the crowd cheers them on.
Alex Hilgeford is an active 8th grader at St. Helen’s Catholic School. He spends his time camping, fishing, and hunting. His favorite passion is wheelchair basketball. While he sounds like a typical kid, Alex’s journey to this point has been far from typical.
In January of 2002, Alex was born with some unusual physical features. He had webbing behind both knees, a club foot, a cleft palate, and his tongue was attached to the roof of his mouth.
Alex immediately underwent testing in the neonatal intensive care unit so doctors could plan the next steps in his care. Because his symptoms were so rare, it took nearly eighteen months before Alex could be officially diagnosed with Popliteal Pterygium (Pop-la-teal Ter-ridge-e-um) syndrome.
Popliteal Pterygium syndrome is a very rare condition that affects the development of the skin and face. Individuals like Alex who have Popliteal Pterygium syndrome could be born with a host of issues such as a cleft lip, a cleft palate, and webs of skin behind their knees.
After diagnosis, Alex faced more than a dozen surgeries. The first surgery came when Alex was only three days old and continued until he was nine.
Following those surgeries, Alex still faced issues using his right leg. Dr. Albert told Alex and his family that amputating his leg and fitting him with a prosthetic was a good option to increase Alex’s mobility. So, at the age of 7, Alex made the incredibly courageous decision to go through with the amputation.
Alex’s decision has been the right choice for him, allowing him to lead an active lifestyle. He loves playing wheelchair basketball and hopes to make the 2024 Paralympics. For the past three years, he has joined the Amputee Coalition at Camp Joy, a camp that helps kids with limb loss and limb indifference enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle. He’s looking forward to the day when he can give back to the camp by volunteering as a camp counselor.
“I want kids to understand that whatever your situation, it’s not going to last forever,” Alex said. “You will come out okay on the other side. This isn’t the end of the road…It’s just a bump along the way.”
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Dayton Dragons applaud all those who have been instrumental in Alex’s life, including his parents Mindy and Drew, his siblings Eric and Kate, all extended family, Dr. Albert, and his entire medical team. Please join us in cheering on Alex as he completes his Anthem Home Run for Life at Fifth Third Field on May 31.
More Information: The Dayton Dragons are the Midwest League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and play a 70-game home schedule at beautiful Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton, easily accessible from Interstate 75. Individuals and groups seeking information about Dayton Dragons group tickets, lawn tickets, the season ticket wait list, sponsorship opportunities or booking a Dragons speaker are encouraged to contact the Dragons by calling at (937) 228-2287, emailing at [email protected], or on the web at daytondragons.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.