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Gambo: An angel named Breanna

This is supposed to be a sports column. Something about the Suns trade, the upcoming NFL draft, the Coyotes recent win streak or the Diamondbacks upcoming season. But I don’t want to write about sports. Over the weekend sports took a backseat to almost everything in my life. Even my kids soccer games on Saturday and Sunday meant little if anything to me. It’s all kind of a blur now. I can barely recall the scores of the games even though I was there. And I’m not sure what exactly, if anything, I watched on television.

You see my life is so blessed in so many ways. I get a chance to entertain people every single day on the radio by talking about sports and life. I have done this now here in Arizona for 14 straight years. I love my job. I appreciate the listeners, the advertisers, the athletes I cover and I respect the people I work with who understand that while it seems like an easy job to turn on a microphone and talk about sports for four hours, it’s really a lot more detailed than that. Not that I’m complaining, like I said I love my job.

One of the things I take great pride in is giving back to the community. Ash and I have raised roughly one million dollars over the years for the 100 Club of Arizona, benefiting the families of fallen and injured firefighters. Just this past October, I had a small part in helping to raise over $1 million dollars for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital through our annual radiothon.

During the radiothon I had this amazing opportunity to deliver teddy bears to some of the children at the hospital thanks to the loyal support of our listeners who donated money. I got to walk the floors of the hospital with Larry Gaydos of News Talk 92.3 and we went around and met some amazing kids. There was something special about putting a smile on a kids face by giving them a teddy bear.

When I got home that night I told my family about this amazing 13-year old girl I met named Breanna Pena. I only spent five minutes with Breanna but she made some impression on me. She had leukemia and was having a tough day, going up and down to ICU with fevers. I showed my family pictures of her and the video the radio station made of the event that day. My wife and daughters were amazed at how beautiful she was. Now Breanna had no hair, but it didn’t matter, her smile lit up the room and she was full of life.

My kids wanted to meet Breanna bad, real bad. So I called Steve Schnall, the Vice President of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, to set up a time we could go meet her. One of his assistants called me back and told me there were rules and regulations that prevented us from doing that. Something about not being able to visit only one child, we would have had to do the whole floor.

So we put it off for a few months and figured spring break would be a good time to go to the floor meet some of the kids and of course Breanna. My kids would be off from school then so it would be a perfect time to do it. And besides, Breanna made such an impression on me I just wanted to be a part of her life and watch as she beat cancer, got back to school and went to college to, as she said, “make a difference in the world”

Well, Breanna made a difference in the world all the way up until the day she lost her battle with cancer and died on Friday. I found out the news just minutes after my show ended and I cried the entire 40 minute ride home. I had to email my wife the information because I was too distraught to call her and tell her the news. I broke down telling my children that they were not going to get to meet Breanna, that the damn leukemia had won the battle and taken a life that had so much living still to do.

They say time heals all wounds but I am still hurting every time I think of Breanna. I only spent five minutes with her but it was an amazing five minutes that I will never forget. What I would give right now to have had my children meet her. She was special. I knew it from the second I met her.

I lost a sister once when I was a child and having gone through that I know there is no greater pain in the entire world than burying a child. But I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe there is a heaven and a hell. I believe Breanna is in heaven, I know she is.

I just wish heaven could have waited before Breanna became an angel. I will never forget you Breanna – NEVER.