HOUSTON—When we first told you about a 12-year-old in Splendora who was fighting leukemia by using a robot named “Watt” that goes to elementary school for him, someone named “Watt” was watching that story too and decided he needed to pay a surprise visit.
Cristian Beasley is one of 34 students across the country using the VGo telepresence system. From a home computer they can control a small robot, drive from class to class, and take part in classroom lectures and discussions.
The children are encouraged to give their robots a nickname. Cristian named his after Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
“’Cause I love J.J. Watt,” he said.
The Texans star saw the story and decided Cristian was someone he had to meet.
In a ruse orchestrated by the Houston Texans, NFL Films, Cristian’s family and school, and the Education Service Center Region 6 that coordinates the VGo program, Watt arrived unannounced at the home where Cristian operates the robot. He quietly snuck up behind him and gave the boy the best surprise of his young life.
“What are you working on,” Watt whispered as Cristian turned around.
“Oh my God,” said the 6th grader dressed for school in his J.J. Watt jersey and a Houston Texans knit cap.
“What’s up buddy,” said Watt. “I’m J.J., nice to meet you man.”
“Oh my God,” is all Cristian could mutter again.
The Texans defensive star spent more than two hours at the Splendora home. He gave Cristian signed shoes, gloves, and more including a signed J.J. Watt jersey which he autographed with the words “stay strong” on the back. They played hacky sack and football in the backyard, mugged for photographs together, and posed for photographs with a large contingent of Cristian’s equally star-struck family.
“That’s awesome,” said Watt. “I saw the story. I appreciate you naming it after me man,” he told Cristian.
Watt also took turns at Cristian’s laptop driving the robot through the halls of Greenleaf Elementary School and at the end of the day also made the 10-mile trip to the school to visit the other students in person.
“It’s awesome. It’s still awesome,” said Cristian during Watt’s visit. “And he’s still here?”
“When I heard the story that he named his robot after me, and that he was such a big fan, I mean it’s a no brainer to do stuff like this,” Watt said. “To see the smile on his face when he realized I was in the room with him and to see all the kids, there’s no better feeling in the world.”
“It means a lot and I’m never going to forget it, never,” said Cristian. “It’s always going to be in here,” he said pointing to his head. “And in here,” he said putting his hand over his heart.
Cristian starts another round of chemotherapy on Monday so his mom said the surprise visit by the football star couldn’t have come at a better time. Among the gifts he gave the boy were a set of “eye black” football patches that Watt told him would make him look tough. He told Cristian to use them when he needed an emotional lift and to remember that he always has a robot and a real guy named Watt rooting for him.
“He has a big heart for kids you know, kids who may not even have cancer,” said Cristian. “He’s a nice guy. And I can really tell.”
Splendora will also hold a fundraiser Saturday May 18th at Splendora High School for Cristian and his family. The fund run/walk that begins at 8 a.m. will help cover some of the medical costs for Cristian’s continued treatments.