The Michigan Wolverines and coach Jim Harbaugh rolled out the red carpet Friday and Saturday for 7-year-old Barrett Fitzsimmons, of Springfield.
Fitzsimmons, a first grader at Northwestern Elementary School, was diagnosed with cancer in May. He has Hepatocellular Carcinoma Stage 4.
Harbaugh invited Barrett to a game when he visited Springfield High School for a satellite camp on June 1. Friends of the Fitzsimmons family gave Harbaugh a Barrett Strong T-shirt and filmed a video message from Harbaugh to Barrett .
“Hi, Barrett, it’s Jim Harbaugh, coach of the Michigan Wolverines,” Harbaugh said. “I heard you like the Wolverines. I’m really excited to have this shirt. Thank you very much. It’s a wonderful gift. I want you to have my hat, my whistle and my shirt. And I want you to come to a game in Ann Arbor this fall. Pick a game, any game you want. We have eight home games. You just keep fighting and smiling, and the good Lord will taking a liking to you, buddy. Come see us in Ann Arbor, and I look very forward to meeting you.”
Harbaugh made good on his promise. The Fitzsimmons arrived in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday, a day before a game against Colorado.
“(Barrett) had a blast,” said Brad Fitzsimmons, Barrett’s dad on Sunday. “He was so excited. The first thing we did we got to meet coach Harbaugh in Schembechler Hall. It was surreal. (Barrett) was shy. I’m not sure he knew exactly how big of a deal (Harbaugh) is, but Harbaugh was great. He was very welcoming, very grateful. He told us he’s praying for him and all that.”
Harbaugh arranged for the family to tour Michigan Stadium and go on the field. Barrett ran onto the field and laid down in the grass, Brad said.
“He was loving it,” Brad said. “His energy level is really great. He didn’t complain about being tired.”
Harbaugh also invited the family to the team’s pregame walk-through practice Saturday. Then they had field passes and got to meet players at Michigan Stadium. They had seats in the second row on the 50-yard line.
Before the game, Harbaugh told Barrett he wanted to give him a game ball, but the Wolverines had to beat Colorado first. After falling behind 21-7, Michigan rallied to win 45-28. Brad and Barrett and Barrett’s grandpa, Jeff Hobby, went to the locker room, and Harbaugh presented a game ball to Barrett in front of the whole team.
All in all, it made for an amazing weekend for Barrett and his family, who returned home to Springfield on Sunday. Barrett will begin his sixth round of chemotherapy Wednesday.
“Everything’s going as well as well as can be,” Brad said. “We’re very hopeful we’re on the right path.”