The following story is an excerpt shared through highlights from an Asbury Park Press article on wish kid Jared’s wish to meet Saquon Barkley of the New York Football Giants. It was written by Jerry Carino. Follow him on Twitter on @NJHoopsHaven.
As 14-year-old Jared Tong arrived at Make-A-Wish New Jersey’s castle in Monroe Saturday, he saw the New York Giants banner hanging out front and thought, “that’s cool.”
The nonprofit foundation was throwing an NFL Draft party for Make-A-Wish kids who are fans of Big Blue.
Then the kids gathered in the castle’s theater, and Jared was called up on stage. The Califon, Hunterdon County resident has battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 2017 and underwent a stem cell transplant in January. He was asked a simple question: What is your wish?
“I told the crowd what my wish was, and I felt an arm come around my shoulder,” he said. “I turned around and Saquon Barkley was standing right there.”
More than anything else, Jared wanted to meet the Giants’ star running back. Wish granted.
“I was in complete shock,” Jared said. “It was awesome.”
That was the kickoff of a day at remember for Tong and approximately 35 other wish kids with critical illnesses. Five members of the Giants — Barkley, tight end Evan Engram and offensive linemen Will Hernandez, Chad Wheeler and Nate Solder — spent the afternoon at the castle, playing games with the kids and helping them announce the franchise’s NFL Draft picks from rounds four through seven. All told, including parents, siblings and other family members, more than 200 people attended.
“In the eight years that we’ve now been open here in this castle, it will go down as one of the most memorable days in our history,” Make-A-Wish New Jersey’s president Tom Weatherall said. “The thing about the Giants is they’re not merely responsive to our requests. This was their idea. They brought it to us. They said, ‘What do you think?’
“What do I think? After I picked myself up off the floor I said, ‘Yes, what do you need?’”
In the center of it all was Barkley, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year last season after amassing more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
“He’s such a great guy,” Jared Tong said. “Very nice, very humble.”
Lance Tong, Jared’s dad, is a longtime Giants season-ticket holder. Jared began going to games at age 5.
“I raised him blue,” Lance said.
Although Lance found out about Saturday’s surprise in advance, there was no way of knowing just how impactful it would be.
“It was a lifetime highlight, without question,” Lance Tong said. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. Just to see how happy Jared was after all he’s been through, it was overwhelming, and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it.”
Barkley not only surprised Jared onstage; he spent considerable time with him and offered to accompany the young man on a visit to Six Flags Great Adventure in the future.
“I’ll always be rooting for him,” Jared said. “It was so much fun. One of the best moments of my life.”