Make-a-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island is celebrating 40 years of granting wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
The nonprofit held its annual gala Saturday night at SoWa Power Station in Boston, where Red Sox legend David Ortiz was honored for his work with the organization.
The Hall of Famer, who has granted 39 wishes over the years, received the 2023 Wish Hero Award at the 40th Anniversary Make-a-Wish Gala.
"For me while I played, and even now that I don't play, being able to make a wish happen is an honor," he said while giving his acceptance speech. "It's an honor. It's one of the biggest home runs that I could ever hit."
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Ortiz told the audience he brought his daughter Alex, who is a student at the Berklee College of Music, to the gala as his date and said his children motivate him to help kids out.
The foundation said it was excited to celebrate all of Ortiz's efforts that have made a difference in the lives of wish children.
“Big Papi has meant a tremendous amount to the organization. Most importantly the children we serve. He’s granted 39 wishes," CEO Sean Holleran said. "For the children he’s spent time with, it's been the highlight of their lives.”
At the event, Ortiz said working with Make-a-Wish is something he loves.
"I think those are my biggest home runs, you know? Giving back to the children, giving back to the community,” the slugger said.
Ortiz became emotional after receiving the award on stage, removing his sunglasses and wiping his eyes. He also embraced the family of Stephan Zepeda, whose wish he granted in 2007. Zepeda died last summer after a long battle with Neurofibromatosis type 2.
During the evening program, Ortiz also participated in a surprise wish reveal -- a trip to Fenway Park -- for a child from Lexington, Mass., who has survived three open heart surgeries.
The gala serves as a chance to create life-changing experiences for wish children, and there was a silent auction Saturday night that included signed jerseys from other New England sports stars like Jaylen Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
The nonprofit was expecting 600 people to attend the event where powerful stories from children and their families were shared.
“Having 600 people show up Saturday night when they could be doing a thousand other things but to show up for our children and their families tells me that there’s good everywhere," Holleran said. "And you don’t have to look too far to find it in Make-a-Wish.”