KEEDYSVILLE – Dylan Witzel grabs his new hockey stick, hits a ball on goal and watches the puck slide into the net.
“I registered!” She said excitedly as her family members and visitors cheered.
The 6-year-old, who is now on the mend from a kidney transplant, scored Wednesday’s goal in more ways than one. The young hockey fan was first playing in her own indoor hockey rink installed in the basement of her Keedysville home through the efforts of Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and donations from the hockey community and others.
“This was a very nice job that Make-A-Wish did,” said her father, Chris Wetzel. “I am still shocked, surprised and grateful.
“She’s been through a lot of trouble, so she deserves something good.”
One of the highlights of the artificial ice now covering the ground was a personal video message from her favorite player, TJ O’Shea of Washington Capitals.
He said he heard she was a huge fan of her, and thanked her for her support.
“I heard your wish is to have your own hockey rink in your house,” O’Shea said. “This has been my dream since I was a little kid.”
“Because of that, my company (hockey apparel from Warroad) is cooperating with Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, and we would like to sponsor this hockey rink for you,” he said. “I hear how special you are and what a brave little girl, and I just want to let you know that my family and I are thinking of you and I wish you all the best.”
Chris Wetzel said Dylan was born with mild Down syndrome and a condition called neurogenic bladder, which doesn’t allow her bladder to empty.
He said she never showed any symptoms of a bladder disorder until May 2019, when she fell ill and ended up at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
By then, the urine accumulated in her kidneys had damaged both of them and she needed a transplant, according to Wetzel.
Wetzel said she got on a transplant waiting list, but four people came forward and submitted one of their kidneys.
Cynthia Hammer of Frederick, Maryland — the mother of one of the players Wetzel coached in the Chesapeake Bay Hockey League — was one of two volunteers who attended the game and said “let’s do it,” according to Wetzel.
Wetzel said in March last year, surgeons removed Dylan’s kidneys and transplanted one of Hammer’s kidneys.
Dylan is still undergoing treatment and has to have a catheterization every three hours, but he is doing well, he said.
“There weren’t a lot of hiccups in the way,” Wetzel said.
In addition to Dylan’s wish being granted, the GoFundMe campaign raised $20,000 to cover her medical expenses, he said.
“You don’t realize how many good people are around you,” Wetzel said.
Dylan was nominated as a candidate for the wish of her medical team, according to Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Jessica Pettit.
Pettit said that in addition to her hockey-training father, Dylan enjoys playing the game with her 17-year-old brother, Drew Glens, who is her favorite athlete after Capitals.
“She wanted something they could do together,” Pettit said. “It’s very special in that way.”
Dylan’s mother, Mandy, had to keep her out of the basement on Tuesday and Wednesday during the artificial ice installation, according to Pettit.
Workers were putting the finishing touches to the project moments before Dylan went down the stairs and saw her indoor rink for the first time.
“You’ll love being here and I’m a little overwhelmed,” Mandy Wetzel said. “It’s very exciting.”
Mandy said she met her husband at the Hagerstown Snow and Sports Complex.
“Dylan has been on the rink since she was about a week old,” Mandy Wetzel said. “We are definitely the ultimate hockey family.”
One simple wrinkle: Dylan and Chris are fans of the Capitals, while Mandy and Drew are fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“This split house goes well,” Mandy said with a laugh.
Mandy said Dylan’s 14-year-old sister, Devin Glens, is the only member of the family who isn’t a big fan of hockey and manages to stay out of the fight.
Dylan will attend kindergarten next year at Rockland Woods Elementary School, where her mother teaches second grade. Chris Wetzel teaches third grade at Eastern Elementary School in Hagerstown.
In addition to Oshie’s efforts to fulfill Dylann’s wish, Capitals provided street hockey equipment and the American Hockey Association donated ice hockey equipment. Pettit said The Capitals gave Dylann a signed T-shirt from Oshie, and Global Synthetic Ice ran the rink installation.
Other gifts included hockey lessons, pillows, sticks, a helmet, a plush Olaf figure from her favorite movie “Frozen,” and many things in pink – her favorite color.
Dylan flashed his thumbs up.
“A wonderful!” She said.