Kiddie Academy Student Inspires Hearts Across the World

When you see Alex Estrada, you see a bright-eyed, 7-year-old boy with a jack-o-lantern smile and cool buzzcut. His brown eyes twinkle with the hint of mischief that is waiting for an opportunity to play. What you won’t see is the neuroblastoma that has plagued Alex since being diagnosed at age 4 in September 2015.

An example of his love of adventure and fearlessness was evident in his recent adventure with the Chicago White Sox. Alex and his dad Vince were treated to a day with the White Sox in the spring because that is Alex’s favorite team. The Sox learned of Alex’s diagnosis through the Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Andrew Weishar Foundation and decided to provide a day they would never forget. It began with a surprise visit to Alex’s school, Kiddie Academy of Bolingbrook, where team mascot Southpaw greeted the eager students with hugs and caps for all. Whisked away in the limo, the duo had no idea what was in store.

They were touring the clubhouse when Alex paused beside the hot tub. To him, this was a pool just waiting for a dip. Mind you, Alex can’t swim, but that didn’t stop him from jumping into five feet of water. Dad Vince, taking photos with his cell phone, tossed it aside and jumped in along with pitcher Hector Santiago to pull Alex onto the deck. Alex emerged with a joyous laugh. The wise clubhouse director green-lighted Alex’s continued swim with a boogie board. Alex’s comment, “The bubbles felt so good!”

Alex hung with his favorite players, playing video games, working out with his heroes and suiting up with a pint-sized jersey #18, hat and his very own bat so he could practice with the team. The day ended with Alex hitting a homer so he could run the bases as the team lined the field, slapping five as this determined young guy slid into home plate. Says Vince, “It was a day I will never forget and a true gift. Alex got to be a normal kid living out his fantasy of being a major league ball player.”

Alex is currently undergoing 17 rounds of rigorous treatment. He is in the hospital for six days then home for 15. “Keeping track of Alex’s medications at home is big challenge to keep on top of,” says Vince. “His schedule of meds and shots makes it difficult for Alex to have a normal life and his immunity is compromised. It’s heartbreaking to watch him but at the same time, he understands why he can’t ride his bike or play with his friends.” Recent scans show the treatment is working to significantly reduce Alex’s tumor.

Vince was able to leave his full-time job to care for Alex 24/7 thanks to support from his caseworker, family and friends. “It’s a relief for me to know I can be there for Alex to care for him as he goes through this ordeal.” Vince also appreciates the generosity of the Andrew Weishar Foundation. Their donation has helped eased the financial burden for the small family.

When Alex is well, he attends Kiddie Academy of Bolingbrook, Illinois tuition free for before and after school care. “Alex has been coming to Kiddie Academy since he was a toddler,” says Katie Moore, owner of the Bolingbrook and Darien academies. “Alex and my daughter Kennedy have been very good friends from their first meeting at our academy. The Estradas are family to us.”

Alex has become family to all the staff at Bolingbrook as well. “Katie and director Olga Dinos say Alex is more than two handfuls of energy and has a response for everything.” Vince jokes, “he ‘runs’ the academy and knows how to finagle ice cream treats, but he’s earned the right to be spoiled a little. Honestly though, I couldn’t do this without their support. His teachers are so attentive and the kids all love him. I really do feel like we are a part of the Kiddie Academy family.”

Asked what advice Vince would offer to other parents faced with a serious illness for their child, he replies, “Trust your doctors, but don’t let it ruin your life. You have to be strong for your kid because they look to you for how to get through it. You also have to weigh allowing them to play with the risks. Alex wants to learn to swim. He has a port in his chest now, so it’s safe for him to enjoy water play at the academy, and enjoy squirt gun fights and water balloons at home.”

“I signed him up for swim lessons, so the next time he jumps in the deep end of a pool, I can watch with pride from the deck.”

Enjoy watching Alex’s ultimate fan day with the Chicago White Sox! 

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