The 12-year-old Wisconsin cancer-patient who stole the USC Trojans heart last year is coming back to La Cañada Flintridge to root for his team in the USC-UCLA game on Saturday.
Hosted by La Cañada businessman Jim Phillips and Pacific Investment Advisory, Ryan Davidson and his family were scheduled to arrive yesterday before the game. Wednesday night they were scheduled to be feted at a dinner put on by WeAreSC in Orange County, and tomorrow, Friday, Jim Phillips will take them to the Trojan football practice and pep rally. Saturday, they will be guests at the Trojan Board of Directors' tailgate party and then Pacific Investment Advisory's guests at the game.
Ryan's first brain tumor was discovered when he was only 6-years-old. After surgery, the boy had nearly five cancer-free years. To celebrate that, Jim Phillips -- who lost his first wife, Maria to breast cancer in 1990 -- began working with Ryan's father, Kirby, to plan a surprise trip to a USC game for Ryan. Although cancer struck again and Ryan had to undergo a second brain surgery in the summer of 2004, the men went ahead with their plans.
"It was important for him to have something to look forward to," Kirby said. Ryan was able to come out in October of last year for the USC-CAL game.
Jim Phillips arranged a meeting with Pete Carroll before the game, but even Phillips was surprised by how warmly the Trojan's Head Coach welcomed the boy.
"It was the day before their toughest game, yet there was Pete Carroll, making time to talk with Ryan in his office and introducing him to all the other coaches and players. Ryan went out on the field with the Trojans for their final practice and even tossed the ball around with some of the players. At the end of practice, the team threw the boy up on their shoulders, chanting "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan!" The Davidsons later learned that Ryan became a living spirit of the team's slogan "Fight On." At a team meeting that night, Lendale White said Ryan was an inspiration for him, and in the locker-room after the Trojans defense made its dramatic final stand to hold off the Cal Bears. Pete Carroll told television reporters that Ryan had been their good luck charm.
The story was picked up on the Internet and carried across the country. A Trojan club in Texas made Ryan an honorary member and sent him gifts and Trojan gear.
The Trojans did not forget their good luck charm, either. When the team went to the National Championship at the Orange Bowl, Pete Carroll sent Ryan and his family tickets to the game. In Wisconsin, Ryan's school had a "hat day," selling permits to wear a cap to school, to help send the family to Miami. When he got there, Ryan rode to and from practice on the team bus.
Last spring, when the excitement of the football season wore off, Ryan was back in Wisconsin facing his continuing battle and daily doses of chemotherapy.
"He got a little down when he lost all his hair," Kirby said, "And then one day there was a phone call from Matt Leinart, who just called to see how he was doing." Kirby said it meant the world to the young boy.
But, there was still one more surprise in store for Ryan -- when the Trojans sent him a replica of their National Championship trophy.
"Ryan has been to one other USC game this year," Phillips said. "At the last minute, a Notre Dame fan in Madison learned he could not attend that game this year, and he gave Ryan his tickets. Kirby and Ryan drove from Madison to South Bend and watched the Trojans squeak through another one."