A Super Bowl Surprise at Packard Children’s

Thanks to the power of social media, Denver Broncos star Vernon Davis answers a cancer patient’s wish — and even leads to some “super” seats


Alex Walter, 18, attends the hospital school most days, and you can bet he’ll be wearing some kind of Denver Broncos gear: hat, shirt, warm-ups and even socks. “I’ve been a fan a long time,” said Alex, a Montana native, “and it probably started with my cousins.” His mom, Ronda, says that it might have something to do with spending the first several years of his life in Denver, where Alex underwent treatment for his congenital heart disease, which included several surgeries. Alex came to Packard Children’s at age five and received a heart transplant when he was 11.

Now, his heart is doing well. But, unrelated to his CHD, he was diagnosed at 17 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. He’s been at the hospital since March for chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Bass Childhood Cancer Center. The treatments leave Alex with little energy, but he is “relentlessly positive,” as mom puts it. He and Ronda are living at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.

As Super Bowl 50 excitement grew, we learned that Alex’s dream was to meet his beloved Denver Broncos, who would be practicing just down the street at Stanford University. On Monday, we posted this to our Facebook page.


The goal was to catch the Broncos’ eye. Thousands of fans liked and shared the post, tagging Peyton Manning, the Broncos, local reporters, and anyone else to help spread the word.

By the next morning we made contact with Vernon Davis, former 49er and now Super Bowl-contending Broncos tight-end. The photo also caught the attention of Bay Area news outlets, including KTVU’s (Fox 2) Rob Roth and NBC Bay Area, who called the hospital wanting to talk to Alex. Staff and the hospital school devised a plan to surprise Alex, telling him that two TV stations were going to interview him about wanting to meet a Bronco. And during the interview Vernon Davis would walk in and give Alex the surprise of a lifetime!

It all worked according to plan. Check out our behind-the-scenes video of the surprise.

Also available on YouTube

Vernon Davis posted about the visit on his social media.


Later in the week the hospital heard from Davis again, this time with some unbelievable news. Levi’s Stadium had seen his visit with Alex and wanted to offer him a pair of tickets to the big game. Davis returned to the hospital on Saturday, Super Bowl eve, with the tickets for Alex, who was pretty sure he was dreaming.

The video captures Davis’ emotion in the moment. “To be able to do this for Alex, who is going through what he is… is so meaningful and special to me,” said Davis.

Alex’s oncologist, Sheri Spunt, MD, who cleared him to be able to attend the game, was there to witness the moment and said, “I have never seen him so happy.”

On Sunday, Alex and a friend left from the hospital to Levi’s Stadium for a day he’ll never forget. Of course, the Broncos win made it that much sweeter.


We thank Vernon Davis for spending time at our hospital this past week. His graciousness, compassion and spirit were felt and appreciated by so many, and most of all, Alex.

Links to media coverage:

NBC Bay Area

Mercury News


Discover more about our Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disease.


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