UW Health Sports Medicine 

Wish Upon a Badger: A special day with one of UW's biggest fans

It's a very common sight at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison to see large men decked out in red roaming the halls and paying visits to children who are there seeking treatment for various conditions.

It may be the time of year for Santa Claus to visit the hospital, but the men in red I'm talking about spend most of their time visiting patients during the football season. Each week, a number of players from the Wisconsin football team choose to give some of their time to some of their smallest -- but most passionate -- fans.

However, when one of those fans can leave the hospital to pay the Badgers a visit, it's even more special. That was the case earlier this season with Nelson Happel, a 7-year-old from Madison whose appearance at Camp Randall Stadium was a great sign of success in his battle against Nueroblastoma, a cancer of the brain.

Sandwiched between what doctors believed to be a successful surgery and the last of many week-long stays at American Family Children's Hospital, Nelson paid a visit to a Badgers practice.

Photos: Wish Upon a Badger - Nelson Happel

Nelson was already familiar with a number of Badgers from encounters during their visits to the hospital, including his favorite player, sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.

After meeting head coach Bret Bielema and taking behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium and the team's facilities -- where he was reunited with another familiar Badger, senior punter Brad Nortman -- Nelson was introduced to the team and received a special gift from Abbrederis himself.

After getting to know the Badgers, Nelson and his father, Gary, had the opportunity to watch the team's win over South Dakota that Saturday from a suite at Camp Randall. Since then, things have continued to look up for the aspiring football player.

Just last week, Nelson's doctors declared him to be cancer free.

Now the young lefty can focus on working toward his dream of playing quarterback for the Badgers.

Speaking as someone who did his best wide receiver impression for Nelson that day at practice, If his arm strength at age 7 is any indication, I like his chances.