The generosity of two Fargo-based business partners led to the Dupper family getting a trip of a lifetime.
During the 9th Annual Pray For Gray Gala on Sept. 9 in Fargo, an all-expense paid trip to Philadelphia to watch the Eagles play, and meet Carson Wentz, was one of the items up for bidding at the live auction. The Pray For Gray Gala is an annual event hosted by the Pray For Gray Foundation who’s founder, Julie Fletcher, started after her own cancer diagnosis. Her husband Rick Fletcher is also instrumental in supporting the cause and assisted in making the arrangements for the trip package.
The package itself was donated by Anthony Pitch, who is a scout with the Eagles and is also a 10-year survivor of brain cancer.
Warren Ackley and Randy Thorson were the winners of the package. But almost immediately, according to Travis Dupper, a gentleman approached the podium and announced that the two men would be donating the package to the Dupper family.
“They won it, and donated the package to us,” said Shiloh Dupper, wife of Travis and mother to two sons Ethan and Alex. “I, of course, cried right away. I was super emotional…it was just amazing for them to do that for us.”
The package included airline tickets, hotel lodging, and on-field passes and game tickets for the whole family. It also included a meet-and-greet with North Dakota native Wentz following the game.
Originally the trip had been scheduled for the family to fly out Oct. 6 and return home on Monday Oct. 9. But when Ethan was voted as Hettinger’s 2017 homecoming king, they decided to delay it by a day, and flew out on Saturday, Oct. 7. Though their itinerary left little-to-no time for site seeing in Philadelphia, their schedule at the football game filled their weekend.
The family was asked to be at the stadium at 11:30 a.m. They got to the stadium and were able to enter the building through a special gate that had no lines. The family then were allowed to watch both teams warm up before the game before heading to their box seats to watch the show.
The Duppers were also lucky enough to watch Wentz play his best game as a professional quarterback, where he threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 34-7 win over the visiting Arizona Cardinals.
Shiloh said they always felt welcomed by the Philadelphia Eagles organization.
“The Philadelphia Eagles organization treated us like we were VIPs,” she said.
As soon as they arrived, they were treated by a representative of the team, which helped them throughout their day.
“[She] basically catered to everything that we needed,” she said.
Being behind the scenes was a great experience for the family too, Travis said. He said they got to witness the commotion that goes on before kickoff, like the parade of reporters and the different players coming in and out of the locker rooms, and even checking the equipment.
“[There’s] a lot of stuff going on,” Travis said. “They were testing all the equipment, we were right down there on the field.”
Following the game, the family was directed back to the locker room to meet Wentz one-on-one. The family said Wentz made them feel comfortable and really took his time with them.
“He was down-to-earth,” Travis said.
“[He’s] just a very nice, normal guy,” Shiloh said. “He chatted with Ethan quite a bit, it was real easy to talk to back and forth.”
Shiloh also said that the family never felt rushed, or felt like they were taking too much of his time.
“It was a really nice, stress-free time,” she said.
Along with autographed footballs and Eagles team apparel, Ethan got a special gift from Punter Donnie Jones.
The 37-year old special teams player took off his game-worn cleats, signed them, and gave them to Ethan. The cleats were a special edition pair that had a ribbon and ‘pediatric cancer’ on the side of the shoes.
As the Duppers settle back into their lives, they’ll carry with them memories, and memorabilia, of their trip to meet Carson Wentz, and the Philadelphia Eagles organization.