Seventeen-year-old Sammy Cibulka fell in love with sports at a young age. “I was playing sports all the time and I would get up every morning at 6 a.m. and turn on SportsCenter.”
But last year, when Sammy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, he learned that he would have to give up playing the sports he loved. That’s when he turned to SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt.
“Every night before I went to bed I would turn on Scott’s show. It was the closest thing to playing sports for me,” said Sammy. “I loved listening to him talk to the players and hear what he had to say about the games and eventually it just became a habit. Now it’s something I want to pursue.”
Sammy, a huge sports fan hopes one day to attend the University of North Carolina and become a sports broadcaster like Van Pelt.
“Scott does things differently than other people and it appeals to me a little bit more,” Sammy said. “He’s a guy that you really engage with. I really wanted to meet him because he’s a real role model of mine.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation got in touch with Van Pelt and on Thursday night, Sammy’s wish came true.
“We’re humbled and amazed that Sammy and his family would choose to come here. You think about what SportsCenter has done over the years with “My Wish” and you see the lengths that players and teams have gone to and I’ve always been moved by that,” Van Pelt said. “But then when you’re asked you realize they didn’t do anything that you wouldn’t try to do.”
Van Pelt wasn’t sure what to expect for his first-time hosting someone through Make-A-Wish but he and Sammy talked and laughed like old friends.
“You don’t know what to expect and then here comes Sammy and he’s this awesome young man who’s sharp and just gets it and is a huge sports fan,” Van Pelt said. “I finally had to pull myself out of the cafeteria because I’ll talk to him until the show starts.”
Sammy and his family went to Scott’s production meeting, ate dinner with him, and spent some time in the studio and the control room during his show.
“Seeing the studio, meeting the people that put together this show and seeing what goes on behind the scenes is really cool,” Sammy said. “And now seeing how good of a guy Scott is in person, he’s just as funny and personable as he is on TV. . . it all exceeded my expectations.”