By the time 4-year-old Ethan Gregor stepped foot on the grass at Target Field on July 24, he was excited … and a bit uneasy.
It was the first time the lifelong Minnesota Twins fan had ever been to a Major League Baseball game. And, thanks to a joint effort between Rasmussen College, the Twins and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he’d be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in that evening’s game against the White Sox.
Ethan has DiGeorge Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that leads to poor development of different body systems. In Ethan’s case, his internal organs developed abnormally. He has undergone 16 previous surgeries on different organs and he will continue to endure heart surgeries as he grows.
The first thing that concerned Ethan as he waited in the tunnel before taking the field was the noise. The 28,000-plus fans in attendance were stretching their vocal cords in preparation for a game against the Twins’ closest Central Division rival and it took a hefty pair of noise-cancelling headphones to get Ethan in the zone.
Adding to his angst was the oversized head and man-shaped moose costume donned by “Rassy,” the eponymous mascot of Rasmussen College. The moment was not only memorable for Ethan, but also had significance to the man behind the moose mask, Steven Zahurones.
“The opportunity to share a special moment with a very special little boy is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said Zahurones, who spearheaded the Make-A-Wish initiative for Ethan. “Seeing that kid smile; seeing that family have fun despite all of the difficult circumstances they’ve faced, that is something that words cannot describe.”
Ethan ignored the nerves and soldiered on. Clad in a brand-new authentic Joe Mauer jersey and Twins cap—gifted by Rasmussen College—Ethan and his mom took the mound confidently and delivered the closest thing to a strike his 4-year-old arm could manage.
“The experience was overwhelming yet very exciting all at the same time,” said Ethan's mom, Karissa Renfro. “It meant the world to Ethan, and he loved every second of it.”
Ethan and his family enjoyed the rest of the game in a “Champion’s Club” box—a premier seating option behind home plate—courtesy of the Twins organization.
The event was the latest initiative for Rasmussen College, a public benefit corporation that prides itself on creating strong connections between and within the communities it serves. Tamryn Hennessy is the vice president of public benefit initiatives at Rasmussen College. It came as no surpries to her that Zahurones went out of his way to help grant a little boy’s wish.
“Our staff and faculty are passionate about building community through education, benefitting not only our students, but also extending to wonderful families like Ethan’s,” Hennessey said.
The opportunity to grant Ethan’s wish enhancement also fell on “Rasmussen Education Night” at Target Field. Education Night is about recognizing and thanking faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to their campus communities.
All told, Rasmussen College recognized 11 employees for their dedication and service to their local communities. Honorees included:
- Barbara Blair
- Carol Dockendorf
- Tamryn Hennessy
- Briana Jandrt
- Lindsey Kennedy
- Tracey Kimball
- Jennifer Kromrey
- Timothy McLean
- John Mindiola
- Deborah Pongratz
- Benjamin Rawlings