This summer is shaping up to be quite a season for Caleb Foarde. The Horizon West resident, who has battled a malignant brain tumor for three years, received news his most recent scans came back clear and he is considered cancer-free.
He also was selected by Make-A-Wish Foundation to have his dream of being an NFL Buffalo Bill fulfilled — and he spent two days in New York.
“I wanted to be a Buffalo Bill,” Foarde said. “I didn’t want to go to a Bills game. I wanted to be a Bill. That’s my favorite team.”
The foundation grants wishes to pediatric cancer patients; Foarde was 17 when first diagnosed.
The ESPN sports network learned of Foarde’s wish and joined in to make the experience even more exciting by documenting his day as a Bill.
ESPN has a “My Wish” program, and reporter Chris Connelly chose Foarde to participate after watching him in another interview.
Connelly told Foarde and his family he was impressed with his determination to give back to children battling cancer. Foarde has served as a mentor, talking them through their fears of brain surgery, and he has formed friendships with those whose friends disappeared after their diagnosis.
On July 3, the TV crew came to Foarde’s home, which he shares with his mother, Cindy Roper, and brother, Lawson, set up the cameras in the living room and filmed a segment with Connelly and Foarde. It was then he learned he was leaving for New York in two days.
Foarde traveled with his mother; sister, MacKenzie Pleus; and nephew, Aiyden Pleus. On the day of his wish, they were picked up by a limousine and driven to the Bills’ Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.
Foarde signed a one-day contract with the Bills, met the team and ate meals with the players, toured the facilities and stadium, watched the team practice during training camp and even called a few plays through the headset belonging to offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey.
Foarde was given his own locker space with a personalized jersey and other swag. Several players gifted him with game-worn jerseys. “Welcome Caleb Foarde & Family” flashed on the stadium Jumbotron.
He met the top brass: owner Terry Pegula, General Manager Brandon Beane and former COO Ron Raccuia.
Raccuia recommended the family eat at Giancarlo’s Sicilian Steakhouse restaurant and made a reservation. When they arrived, their menus were printed with “Caleb’s wish to meet the Buffalo Bills” on the cover.
One touching meeting was between Foarde and Bills offensive tackle, David Quessenberry, who shared he had been diagnosed with cancer nine years ago and beat it.
“It was amazing,” Foarde said of his wish experience. “It was all I thought it would be and more. It was just an amazing experience. Just to be with the players and see the facility and see how everything goes down. It was awesome. I got to hang out with (quarterback) Josh Allen — a world-class experience.
“It was just an all-around great day,” he said.
CHOOSING THE BILLS
Foarde grew up watching football with his father, Mike, and decided he wanted to support a team of his own. After the Super Bowl one year, he began studying each of the NFL teams. He wanted to know about the players and how they treated people, what their team culture and their fan base were like.
“Ultimately, the Buffalo Bills found me,” Foarde said.
Foarde’s story has been shared many times in the sports community. He was featured on two Buffalo Bills podcasts: One Bills Live and Table Breakers.
The family hosted a watch event July 19 at the Miller’s Ale House in Hamlin, and a packed house of family and friends turned out to view the ESPN segment. Among the watchers were members of the Bills Mafia, an Orlando chapter of Buffalo Bills fans.
RINGING THE BELL
Diagnosed with medulloblastoma in July 2020, Foarde underwent surgery to remove the tumor, had to have a second surgery, went through rehabilitation and various therapies, and received radiation and chemotherapy.
He was declared cancer-free, but last September a scan showed three small spots on his spine. He has been receiving chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay.
“He went almost a year and then diagnosed again, and it just (knocks) the wind out of your sails,” Roper said. “We don’t look at it gloom and doom. We have God on our side. But the scans are terrifying.”
For now, Foarde is working a customer service job from his home office. He’s not sure what is next for him.
“Just continue on being happy,” he said. “I’m very happy and will continue on being happy.”
Roper shared something her son said in one of his interviews: “I think God gives you hard battles to make strong warriors. I’m ready to take this. I’m good. I’ll figure this out.”