KJ Ricci overwhelmed by visit from the Celtics

KJ Ricci overwhelmed by visit from the Celtics

KJ Ricci, 10, makes a shot in front of Celtics guard Avery Bradley on the new court in his driveway. Looking on from behind are, from left, KJ's father Kevin and his mother Tammy. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - For one day, all the treatments, all the pain, all the sadness felt almost like an afterthought as 10-year-old KJ Ricci got the visit of a lifetime.

The boy who has always showered those around him with love was overwhelmed by a surprise visit from his "favorite player," Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley, former player/current announcer Cedric Maxwell, and "Lucky" the Celtics mascot last Wednesday.

The Boston Celtics and RE/MAX of New England joined up to unveil a "Home Court Makeover" to KJ and his family. The prize included a driveway and court resealing, a new basket stanchion, a backboard, a scoreboard and a ball rack.

But the visitors weren't done.

KJ was led inside to find that the Celtics had also given his bedroom a complete makeover, complete with a signed team logo on the wall, new bedding and furniture, and signed memorabilia.

When KJ met Bradley, he buried his face in his mother's side, saying, "my dream."

Again and again, KJ put his hand to his mouth, barely able to hold back the tears as he was given one surprise after another. "I think I'm gonna faint," he said after receiving two signed Celtics jerseys, one with "Ricci" on the back and the other with "Bradley."

See our video capturing the heartwarming moments from the visit with this story at www.valleybreeze.com .

KJ's parents, Kevin and Tammy, said they were so grateful for the day KJ had. Kevin Ricci said all the gifts were "unbelievable" and the entire day was "just a dream come true."

"We're so thankful and happy for everything and it really brought a lot of happiness into KJ's life," he told The Breeze.

"This means a great deal to us," said Tammy Ricci.

One of the highlights for KJ was when Bradley agreed to wear one of his orange "Stand Tall for KJ" bracelets to the first game of the Celtics season.

He had the chance to shoot hoops with Bradley and even got to give Bradley an assist on a basket. Bradley and Maxwell told KJ that the Celtics plan to bring him back to Boston to see another game during the upcoming season, just as he did last season, when he first grabbed their attention with his huge smile.

As it does every year, the Home Court Makeover contest received hundreds of entries. The number was eventually narrowed down to 10 finalists, and three winners were selected from that group.

The Celtics representatives said it was really KJ's "spirit" and the inspiring way that he encourages people around him, even as he's going through such difficult times himself, that really helped win him the prize. They called KJ is a "hero" and a "champion of hope."

It's exciting, you know, as a kid you always dream of stuff like this, and to really put a smile on KJ's face today was just amazing," said Bradley after the unveiling. "I enjoyed myself. He has an amazing family and he's an amazing kid."

Bradley said the court makeovers are "a brilliant idea" by RE/MAX, and he hopes to be with the Celtics for his career so he can continue participating.

KJ Ricci is a "boy full of love and laughter, with a special soul that can brighten anyone's life he comes into contact with," according to the "Stand Tall for KJ" Facebook page.

"He is also a boy that has already been confronted with many trials, including autism and a bone disorder that has required many surgeries throughout his young life," reads the page. "However, these battles were only a prelude to his greatest challenge that began on the night of Dec. 13, 2011, when KJ was diagnosed with Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia."

The disease is a rare form of leukemia that only a handful of children in the country per year are diagnosed with.

Last week's Home Court Makeover followed up a basketball clinic by Bradley at KJ's school, Whelan Elementary.

Avery Bradley
Celtics guard Avery Bradley, left, and broadcaster/former player Cedric Maxwell, right, pose with 10-year-old KJ Ricci, center, and his parents, Kevin and Tammy Ricci.