Ryan Hoiland loves the Minnesota Twins, and the 9-year-old is quick to point out his favorite player.
“They have a lot of great players,” said Ryan, from Fargo. “They especially have one of my favorite players, Justin Morneau.”
Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Dakota, Ryan will get his chance to see the Twins up close. Ryan and his parents – Jay and Andrea Hoiland – are set to travel to Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday to be part of Twins spring training.
“It’s very exciting,” said Jay as he started to choke up with emotion.
Ryan was diagnosed with an immune deficiency at 2 years old. He needs regular infusions to help replenish antibodies in his blood.
“It’s hard on him when he goes in,” Jay said. “He gets worked up.”
Make-A-Wish and Corwin Automotive Group hosted a celebration for Ryan on Friday afternoon. Corwin is sponsoring the wish. Ryan and his family found out some of the details of their trip to Fort Myers at the gathering.
“I’m super excited for him,” Andrea said. “That’s all he can talk about.”
Ryan received a package of Twins-related gifts Friday that included a Twins jersey, a Morneau T-shirt and an autographed Morneau baseball card.
“That’s my third Morneau T-shirt,” Ryan said as he held the shirt in his hands.
Ryan will get a chance to be on the field a couple of hours prior to the Twins spring training game versus the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. He hopes to get the chance to meet Morneau.
“He’s a good slugger,” said Ryan, who will get to see two Twins games on the trip. “I just like how he plays first base.”
Dana Altendorf, director of communications for Make-A-Wish of North Dakota, said that in North Dakota, Make-A-Wish usually fulfills more than 30 wishes per year.
Volunteers Brittany Schulz, Dawn Endres and Kevin Register are wish granters who helped with Ryan’s wish. Altendorf said there are about 150 volunteers in the state.
“Volunteers are the heart of our organization,” Altendorf said. “They make everything run smoothly for us.”
Make-A-Wish is also working on fulfilling a wish for Ryan’s older brother, Drew, who is 17 and has cerebral palsy.
Kayla Foltz, the director of program services for Make-A-Wish of North Dakota, said Make-A-Wish is planning a room makeover for Drew.
Make-A-Wish is trying to target Drew’s wish for April 29, which is World Wish Day. That is the anniversary of the wish (which was in 1980) that led to the forming of Make-A-Wish.
Ryan said he can’t wait to get to Florida, not only to watch the Twins spring training games but also to go swimming.
“It would be awesome to see all the players working and practicing,” Ryan said. “I would love to see them hit and field and mostly the pitching. I’m really into pitching. … I just basically want to have fun in Florida. I heard it’s pretty warm in the spring and winter around there.”