Big Seahawks fan from West Richland gets wish granted

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldDecember 21, 2012 

Tucked among the traditional ornaments on the Anderson family's Christmas tree -- the red-and-green stockings, the glittering icicles, the smiling snowmen -- are a sweatshirt-wearing Santa carrying a football and a trio of Seattle Seahawks players huddled in uniform.

The football-themed ornaments belong to Spencer, 17, of West Richland, who became a Seahawks fan at the age of 10 when the team was one of the best in the National Football League.

"Sometimes I feel like I became a bandwagon fan when they went to the Super Bowl," he told the Herald on Thursday.

But his love for the team wasn't a fleeting childhood phase. It abides to this day and merged with his passion for performing to inspire a desire for a career in sports broadcasting -- one he's already begun as a football and basketball announcer as a student at Hanford High School in Richland.

He'll get to realize a piece of his dream this weekend in Seattle when Make-A-Wish Washington paves the way for Spencer to attend a Seahawks game, interview a player and shadow a professional sports broadcaster.

The foundation, which grants wishes to children and teens with life-threatening medical conditions, contacted Spencer's family after hearing from his doctor that the teen had been diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, a relatively uncommon form of blood cancer.

Spencer's cancer journey began with a simple accident in February. He was part of the cast of The Music Man at Hanford High School, and was struck in the groin with a cane by another actor during one of the performances.

When the pain didn't recede after a couple of days, and seemed to be accompanied by a lump, Spencer went to see his doctor.

Several tests later, he was told he had cancer.

"I think I handled it pretty well," he said. "My attitude was, 'What's the next step?' Not a lot of self-pity."

Spencer, then 16, started five months of chemotherapy in March, and missed most of the second semester of his junior year.

Just after he turned 17 in June, Make-A-Wish contacted his mother to offer Spencer a chance for one of his wishes to come true. His parents are Robert and Pamela Anderson.

"In April before they contacted us I had joked about it with my friends, but I thought it was only for terminally ill children and I didn't plan on dying," he said. "When we were contacted, it was pretty cool."

He already knew what his wish would be -- to be part of a Seahawks broadcast.

"To go to a professional football game and be around that environment ... to have that experience at my age, where I'm at, that was my wish," he said.

His flew to Seattle on Thursday evening -- after a hectic day of giving interviews and a rehearsal for his high school's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Today, he gets the chance to visit the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton where the team will practice for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Spencer said he was told he'll get a chance to interview a player after practice, but which one is a surprise.

"I hope it's Golden (Tate)," he said.

He'll also get the chance to shadow Seahawks digital media host Tony Ventrella as he prepares for the game, and has been invited to a pre-game radio show broadcast from Touchdown City within the CenturyLink Field Event Center.

Then he'll be a VIP guest on the field for the game itself.

Spencer also is hoping for a shot at meeting two of his sports broadcasting idols -- Al Michaels and Bob Costas of NBC, who will be there for the network's broadcast of the game.

"There's an outside chance," he said.

When asked what he'd do if he meets them, Spencer said, "I would just be basking in their glory -- just being able to meet them and let them know they're who I look up to in broadcasting."

The weekend whirlwind also will include taking in Elf -- The Musical at the 5th Avenue Theatre and dinner at the Space Needle.

But as many exciting things as Make-A-Wish Washington has crammed into Spencer's weekend, perhaps the best part is that he'll be doing it all cancer-free.

He got his first clean scan in November.

"It was such a sense of relief," he said.

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