Oscar got hooked on soccer from the moment he started playing in his city’s recreational league. For 9-year-old Oscar, who lives with Type 1 diabetes, soccer has been a great source of physical activity and a big confidence booster. Recently, he was able to participate in the Virtual Player Honoree Program via CHAMP, the Volkswagen tele-presence robot, at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualifying match against Honduras at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.
CHAMP, a Volkswagen custom robot, was developed to expand the reach, visibility and impact of the existing U.S. Soccer Player Honoree program. With its telepresence technology, CHAMP allows young soccer fans experiencing hardships or unique circumstances the opportunity to participate as a player honoree virtually, driving access and inclusion for those that would otherwise not be able to attend a U.S. Soccer match.
Living with diabetes
Oscar was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 5 – less than a month before starting kindergarten. His parents brought him to the pediatrician after noticing he was extremely thirsty and needed to urinate frequently. He was admitted to Children’s Minnesota in August 2019.
During the hospital stay, Oscar and his family learned all about managing his Type 1 diabetes – how to count carbs, inject insulin and the different factors that can affect his blood sugar. Figuring all that out was a big change for him and his family, especially right before he was about to start school. But, they were weren’t going to let diabetes stop Oscar from doing what he wants.
Virtual Player Honoree experience
When U.S. Soccer reached out to the child life program at Children’s Minnesota looking for a patient who could participate in the Virtual Player Honoree Program via CHAMP, they thought of Oscar and his love of soccer.
“Oscar has expressed his love of soccer often. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for him to connect with the soccer team and share his passion for the sport, all the while encouraging him and others that diabetes doesn’t stop you from being a kid,” said Melissa Reeves, child life specialist in the diabetes and endocrinology program at Children’s Minnesota.
While COVID-19 impacted the ability for Oscar to participate in-person, he was able to experience the honoree role virtually through the Volkswagen tele-presence robot named CHAMP.
The most meaningful experience for Oscar was when he had a one-on-on video chat with Jordan Morris, a forward for the Men’s National Team. Like Oscar, Jordan lives with Type 1 diabetes. The Jordan Morris Foundation aims to educate, inspire and support children living with Type 1. The two talked about their favorite snacks to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Jordan’s message to Oscar was: never let diabetes slow you down.
“It was so great for him to connect with someone doing so well. Meeting Jordan made him feel special. He was riding high the whole next day at school,” remarked Maggie, Oscar’s mom.
Matchday was full of even more special moments for Oscar. Through CHAMP, he took a tour of the locker room and all the players’ lockers, including Jordan Morris. When the Equipment Manager got to the end of the tour, he surprised Oscar with his very own locker and jersey!
“He was so excited, he nearly cried he was so happy. It was really special,” said Maggie.
As the team got off the bus at Allianz Field, players waved at Oscar as they went to the locker room. He then talked with Ernie Stewart, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director and a three-time World Cup veteran for the U.S. When the team went onto the field for warm ups, Oscar was there to cheer them on.
The U.S. Men’s National Team put on a show for Oscar during the match, winning 3-0.
Support is critical for kids living with diabetes. When Oscar was diagnosed, he started connecting with other kids living with Type 1 through the Diabetes Connect support group hosted by child life specialists. He’s also received support in school. A child life specialist has visited his classroom to talk to the students about Type 1 and answer questions – taking the burden off of Oscar.
Since diagnosis, Oscar is doing great at managing his diabetes. “He’s come a really long way. He’s very high energy, curious and involved,” said Maggie.