Troy Aikman has made countless connections during his careers on the field and in the broadcast booth. But none more important than a recent Zoom call with a dying fan.
Mark Melchiore, a 25-year-old from Philadelphia, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (brain cancer) and given a life expectancy of one month. His family reached out to Dream Foundation, the nation's only dream-granting organization for terminally-ill adults.
It was Melchiore's dying wish to meet Aikman, the former Dallas Cowboys' quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Though growing up deep in Philadelphia Eagles' country, Mark and his sister, Amanda, grew up Dallas Cowboys fans thanks to their grandmother. Mark played football through high school, idolizing and attempting to mimic his idol, Aikman.
When first contacted by Melchiore's family, the Dream Foundation called on its Ambassador of Sports - five-time NBA All-Star and NASCAR team owner Brad Daugherty - to reach out to his friend, Aikman. The long-time Fox analyst immediately responded, telling Daugherty he'd be honored and delighted to speak with both Mark and Amanda.
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The COVID pandemic made an in-person meeting impossible, so the three connected via Zoom last week. During the call, Mark - barely able to move and unable to speak - mustered enough energy to hold up for Aikman his favorite Cowboys cap, offer a thumbs-up and, in the end, produce a smile.
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Three days after the virtual meeting, Mark Melchiore passed away.
“I just wanted to thank you guys again so much for what you did," Amanda said to Aikman and Dream Foundation. "Mark passed away. But Troy gave him his last excitement. It was the first time I've seen him smile in a while, and the last."
Since its inception in 1994, Dream Foundation has facilitated more than 32,000 Dreams, many consisting of special calls or meet-and-greets with athletes.