The list of guest pickers this year on ESPN’s College GameDay contains some big names, including Katy Perry, Kenny Chesney and Ken Griffey Jr. But the coolest guest of the year may have been 9-year-old Ethan Fisher, who came on stage to help Lee Corso make his pick before the Florida State-Clemson game on September 20.
Ethan, the son of Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, is a constant presence at Doak Campbell Stadium and an inspiration to fans across the country as he battles a life-threatening blood disorder.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. Ethan Has a Rare Incurable Blood Disorder Called Fanconi Anemia
Ethan was diagnosed in 2010 with Fanconi Anemia, a rare, incurable blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure and an increased risk of cancer.
The disease impacts about one in 131,000 people, and people with the disease have a life expectancy of just 29, though patients living into their 30s and beyond has become more common.
Ethan, featured in a 2012 GameDay profile that you can watch above, shows is healthy, active and athletic, but an optimistic long-term prognosis will depend on researchers making substantial progress in how to treat FA.
His mom, Candi, talked about watching Ethan grow up in the 2013 Reddit forum last year.
The biggest struggle for me is seeing Ethan doing so many cool things and seeing how athletic he is, and then I have that feeling in my stomach that reminds me that eventually he won’t be able to do those things. As parents we want so much for our kids and I know it has to be tough for you too. I have to remind myself that each minute we spend with him is so precious and to cherish it all and to try not to focus on the worry. I hope that you find a way to share your daughter’s story. It can be healing for you to have people listen.
2. The Fishers Started a Foundation Aimed at Raising Awareness for the Disorder
Candi is the chairwoman of the Kidz1stFund, a foundation the Fishers created to raise awareness of FA and funding to fight the disease.
Here’s how the foundation’s website describes its mission:
Kidz1stFund was created to raise awareness and funds in support of research to fight Fanconi anemia, a rare but serious blood disease that affects thousands of children each year. New treatments are being developed, and breakthroughs are on the horizon, but defeating this illness will require the help of generous souls from every walk of life.
3. Ethan & His Mom Travel to Minnesota for Checkups
Ethan and his mom travel for checkups and blood work to Minnesota, where home to the world-renowned Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Center at the University of Minnesota.
The center, the biggest of its kind in the United States, describes its treatment of FA as follows on its website:
University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital is the single largest treatment center for patients with FA in the United States. The care provided is individually tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient and family. Our team of expert health care providers who specialize in FA, apply leading-edge research developed by University of Minnesota scientists.
This coordinated care, combined with leading research and long-term follow-up, is one reason the university is a national referral center for diagnosing, monitoring and treating children with FA.
4. Kelvin Benjamin Is Ethan’s Favorite Player
Ethan lists former Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin as his favorite FSU player and LeBron James as his favorite athlete.
Decked out in a black national championship t-shirt and a matching hat, Ethan walked out onto the Doak Campbell Stadium field with Benjamin during the Seminoles’ national championship celebration last winter. Warchant.com has a photo gallery of the celebration.
Benjamin also posted for a photo with Ethan’s mom the day of the celebration.
5. He Missed a Flag Football Practice to Appear on GameDay
Ethan told reporters he almost couldn’t make the GameDay appearance for two reasons: One is that he’s shy and was anxious about appearing before a big crowd and being on national TV. The other? He had a flag football practice that day. But as he acknowledged, being on GameDay was a bit more fun than playing flag football. Seminoles.com put together a video feature on the GameDay performance that you can watch above.