When football brings joy and tears


There were tears. From multiple people.

And I am not at all ashamed to say, I was one of them in tears.

Because what I watched happen, what I saw transpire pregame on Sunday, it was flat out emotional.

Let me explain.

When you hear someone has seeing a Steelers game at Heinz Field on their bucket list, you honestly aren't surprised. A lot of people have that wish.

When you hear a dying 16-year old has that on his bucket list. That it's the one thing he wants more than anything and you are watching it happen. Just try not to feel emotional.

Lucas Olenhaus has dealt with health issues since he was just 13 months old, suffering from seizures that resulted in him losing his hearing at just 15 months old. Slowly he deteriorated, but that didn't stop him from having a love of sports, something that could keep his mind occupied and bring him happiness. And through his family's love of the Steelers, the young boy from New Jersey adopted a love for them as well.

But the one thing missing in his life was the chance to see the Steelers play in person, at Heinz Field in particular. So his family set out to get him to a game. They got more than they ever could have imagined.

The entire family came to see the Steelers play the Raiders, and Lucas was a special guest on the sidelines before the game, meeting players and taking in the excitement as much as he was able to in his fragile state.

"This is incredible," said his mother Denise Olenhaus. "I can't thank everyone enough for this. It's overwhelming. I want him to enjoy this."

His health continues to fail, unable to communicate except through his eyes, and you could see those eyes dancing as players, including one of his favorites Heath Miller, came over to him, gently touching his hand and welcoming him. But that vision, that one form of communication he still has, is failing along with his health and soon could be gone.

"My children are all so thankful for this," said Olenhaus, her voice cracking and tears welling up in her eyes. "They are so happy for this to happen for him. It's really an incredible experience. This was the biggest thing on his bucket list. I really wanted to get him here. I didn't expect all of this. I am in awe. I can't thank everybody enough. It's incredible."

She stopped for a minute and looked around, looked at Lucas, and reached inside for the strength to go on.

"It's a memory that we will have forever," she finished, tears streaming down her cheeks. "When he passes away we will have this memory with us forever."

And it's a memory everyone that met Lucas will have for the rest of their lives as well.

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