DERRY TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY—The world famous Harlem Globetrotters played a doubleheader in Hershey on Wednesday. Fans packed the GIANT Center to see the show, but the team had its sights set on one pint-sized person in the crowd.
6-year old Josiah Viera, of Hegins, Schuylkill County, is a tiny, but tough cookie. He's battling a deadly genetic disorder, but still enjoys every minute he has with friends, family & the Globetrotters.
Josiah is only two feet tall, 16-pounds soaking wet, but he has big dreams. One came true as the players made him part of their team.
Josiah is battling Progeria, a rare genetic disorder that causes premature aging. He is one of only about 14 children in the United States diagnosed with the disorder; most will not make it to their 15th birthday. Josiah already has arthritis, suffers mini-strokes and seizures.
"It really touched my heart, it was very hard for me not to show any emotion or burst out crying with tears, I just want Josiah to come out have a good time & be a kid today," says Kris "Hi-Lite" Bruton, a dunker with the Globetrotters.
"You know it's not too long ago, I was a 6-year old kid wanting to be a Harlem Globetrotter, so I'm truly living my dream and I try to be a testimony to other kids that their dreams are attainable & I think Josiah has proven that," says Chris "Handles" Franklin, the team's showman & a Harrisburg native.
The little boy continues to prove that, walking tall into the arena on Wednesday as the team's special guest. His inspiration and determination are contagious.
"Just giving back to someone less fortunate, because we've all been blessed with good health and we realize that not everybody in this world is blessed with great health so anything we can do to give back & put a smile on his face is what we're willing to do," says Derrick "Dizzy" Grant, a dribbler with the team.
"When I look at Josiah, I don't see the disease, or the potential outcome of it, I see Josiah as a 6-year old who is just enjoying life, so that's I think the thing that keeps me going every day," says Jen Viera, Josiah's mother.
The Globetrotters donated a portion of Wednesday's ticket sales to the Viera family, to help pay medical expenses.
Josiah has also met Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, and is attending a Duke basketball game this weekend.