A goodwill gift

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; When J.R. Rivas approached Woody Dinning with the notion to try and do something nice for Will Freeman and his family neither man expected the end results. Freeman, six, is afflicted with Mitochondrial Disease, a condition that keeps the young boy wheelchair bound.

Rivas idea was to set something up with University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. The Freemans are avid Alabama fans and Rivas believed a positive gesture from the oft-maligned head coach would provide a great deal of encouragement to the family.

Rivas asked Dinning how the pair could go about getting their request to Saban. Dinning responded by sending the Crimson Tide coach a letter.

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Dinning, who expected know reply to his initial letter, said he received a note from Saban, thanking him for his words of encouragement. Armed with that memory, Dinning hoped a second letter might also reach attention of the coach.

Uncertain of what, if any, response he would receive, Dinning mailed a second letter to the coach in May. According to Dinning, he received a package from the university nine days after mailing the letter.

Dinning&8217;s letter had apparently reached the attention of the Alabama coach, prompting the Tide&8217;s top man to send three autographed footballs to be distributed to Will, his brother Jake and Jace Rivas, J.R.&8217;s son.

Each ball was personalized with the appropriate boy&8217;s name and an inscription that universally encourages all Alabama fans, &8220;Roll Tide!&8221;

The presentation of the footballs came as a total surprise to Will and Jake and their parents Kenny and Theresa.