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Special wish granted for a Pittsburgh Pirates fan

LEFT: Zach Wajda lights up with joy as he receives a Pittsburgh Pirates-themed wish on Saturday.

WHEELING — Taking a trip to a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game and throwing out the first pitch is a dream Zach Wajda has always treasured.

A Special Wish Foundation made that dream possible on Saturday at Vagabond Kitchen in Wheeling.

Wajda is 21 years old and suffers from Costello syndrome. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Costello syndrome is an extremely rare condition that affects multiple organ systems of the body. It can result in growth delays after birth; short stature; extra loose skin on the neck, palms of the hands, fingers, and soles of the feet; noncancerous tumors; developmental delay and intellectual disability; and a characteristic facial appearance. There is an increased incidence of congenital abnormalities of the heart and thickening of the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy, and the condition has affected Wajda’s heart.

A Special Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to granting the wishes of children 21 years old and younger with life-threatening conditions. The Ohio Valley Chapter has granted more than 500 wishes over more than two decades to children in the counties it serves. These include Belmont, Brooke, Hancock, Harrison, Jefferson, Marshall, Monroe and Ohio counties.

Alicia Freeman, executive director of the local chapter based in St. Clairsville, said the organization wanted to do something for Wajda to help his dreams come true. The organization was able to do this by reaching out to the Pirates, which helped the group gift him tickets to a game, a Pirates hat and the chance to throw out the first pitch at the game.

When Wajda entered the Vagabond Kitchen restaurant on Saturday, he was greeted by his family and friends holding a black and yellow banner stating “Congratulations Zach.” He was surprised when Freeman showed him a Pirates video on her laptop and then handed him an envelope with tickets inside. Once Wajda was told he would be able to throw out the first pitch at the game, his face lit up with a giant smile.

“He has been through a lot. Unfortunately, this journey isn’t going to stop for him anytime soon and he has came a long way,” Freeman said. “Our goal is to really do something special for him so he could have some joy with all that he has been through. He is a big Pirates fan and has been since birth, so we are super excited to be able to do this for him. We really appreciate the Pirates organization. They went above and beyond.”

As part of his special day on Saturday, Wajda also got to meet Matt Welsch, chef and owner of Vagabond Kitchen. In February, Welsch was the winner when he appeared on the competitive Food Network program “Guy’s Grocery Games.”

Event organizers said The Food Network is a big part of Wajda’s life and that he enjoys spending his time learning about cooking and various foods.

“We chose the Vagabond Chef because Zach is a huge Food Network guru,” Freeman said. “I was telling him about how we had someone in our local market who was on ‘Guy’s Grocery Games.’ He said that we would love to meet him and eat at his restaurant, so once we knew we were able to grant this wish we knew it was the perfect place to do the reveal.”

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