“When we got onto the field during pregame practice, I got down and kissed the ground,” said Eddy Burch, 54. “I pulled up a handful of grass and put it under my hat, for luck.”
It worked, he figured – the 49ers won their game the next day.
The trip to the Bay Area and getting to meet and mingle with the 49ers came courtesy of the Dream Foundation, which arranges adventures for adults who have life- threatening illnesses.
Burch, an account manager for Valley Crest Landscaping, was diagnosed with colon cancer about eight years ago, he said. It spread to his liver and elsewhere in his body. Doctors have told him that it is inoperable and that he has less than a year to live.
“I’m not looking at that,” he said. “I know I can live longer than that.”
Burch traveled to the Bay Area with his wife, Esther, their 13-year-old grandson, Dominique, and longtime friend Tony Thomas of Riverside.
Burch got up close to the team: He was included in a post-practice huddle on the day before the game.
“I got to meet them real good,” he said.
He had meaningful conversations – “not just about football,” Burch said – with players and staff members, including wide receiver DeAndrew White and running-back coach Tom Rathman.
Head coach Jim Tomsula talked to Esther Burch about an experience they have in common: being a caregiver for a cancer patient. Tomsula’s mother has battled breast cancer for many years.
“I was touched that he would do that,” Esther Burch said.
Tomsula also made sure Eddy Burch got the game ball.
Burch said he feels lucky to have had so much interaction with the athletes and coaches of what has been his favorite team since he was about 13.
“Win or lose,” he said.
“Eddy is the 23rd dream recipient the San Francisco 49ers have graciously hosted in partnership with Dream Foundation, said the group’s executive director, Kisa Heyer. “When we call, the 49ers don’t hesitate to make dreams happen.”
For the people the group serves, and especially their caregivers, she said, the trips are a much-needed break from the hardships of illness. The foundation puts them up at luxury hotels – the Burch party stayed at Plaza Suites in Santa Clara – and provided all meals, transportation and special gifts.
“We all had a blast,” Burch said.