Oprah's rock 'n' roll Wildest Dreams Bus is off to Milford, Connecticut, to meet a very special dreamer.
Like most young boys, John grew up with a love for the outdoors and had a passion for sports, including baseball, basketball and football. But in the summer of 2004, after John developed mononucleosis, a common viral infection, his parents noticed something was wrong.
Within hours of taking him to the doctor, they discovered that an extremely rare form of muscle-eating bacteria was ravaging through John's 17-year-old body. They said John had only eight hours to live, and that to keep the disease from spreading, they would need to amputate his legs and part of his arm immediately.
For four days, John was so heavily sedated, he had no idea the magnitude of his illness or even that he'd been through surgery. It wasn't until it was all over he was told the devastating news. Doctors said that because the amputation was so severe, John would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
But it was John's own determination that got him out of the hospital and into physical therapy. For the past eight months John has been working hard to rebuild his life. Today he can swim and even drive on his own.
This amazing teen has a legion of fans. Family, friends—even complete strangers—wrote in to tell us about John's courage and the one big passion that keeps him going: the New York Yankees. So we enlisted a superstar athlete, a billionaire tycoon and an entire city to hit John's dream right out of the ballpark!
John's big surprise began on Manhattan's famed Fifth Avenue at the luxurious Trump Tower! When Donald Trump heard about John and everything he went through, Donald jumped at the chance to help make his wildest dream come true.
"I know you've got a really cool bus," Donald tells Oprah. "I hear it's special. But you know what? I've got an even cooler helicopter. And today, I'm going to help make a very special delivery to Connecticut. This is going to be an amazing surprise!"
The special delivery? It's none other than baseball superstar and John's hero, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter! Derek takes the Trump helicopter to the Wildest Dreams Bus, which will then take him to surprise John at his high school.
Everyone at John's high school thinks there's going to be a pep rally! But when Derek walks into the gym he's got a special message!
"Oprah told me your story, and you're a remarkable young man. Everyone here should be very proud of how you handled yourself and how you've overcome adversity. And we're here to make your wildest dream come true! So today, you're stuck with me. You're going to fly back with me to Yankee Stadium and you'll be my guest and get a chance to meet all the players and have a good time. It's gonna be a lot of fun!"
Next stop, a place so exclusive it's been off limits to TV cameras for almost 10 years—until today. The fabled Yankee clubhouse opened its doors just for John! One by one, John met the Yankee greats.
"They're my favorite team ever since I can remember," John says. "They're amazing. They have the best players ever. This is like a dream come true even to have them talk to me. Even meeting Derek Jeter. But I mean the whole team? I couldn't even dream of this day."
And to make John feel right at home with the team? Derek cleaned out his own locker space for his ultimate fan.
"Oprah, you've given me Derek Jeter's locker and I can't thank you enough," John says. "It's awesome. It's such a great experience."
Back on the field, John helps Derek warm up for the game. As game time nears, John's friends and family arrive to share in his once-in-a-lifetime Yankee dream come true.
But of course, it's not over for John! When our friends at Kleenex brand tissue heard John's story, they also were very moved. So moved that they gave John a check for $50,000 to help pay for his medical expenses and for his prosthetic legs!
There's still more! We heard that John's parents, John Sr. and Barbara, were forced to cancel their 25th wedding anniversary because of the medical costs. So Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is going to send them on an all expenses-paid, seven-night, luxurious cruise on one of Royal Caribbean's extraordinary Voyager ships! Its unparalleled amenities include a three-story dining room, an ice skating rink, a miniature golf course and a rock-climbing wall. Royal Caribbean is also giving them the ultimate romance package for their silver anniversary, including lavish spa appointments, breakfast in bed and a bottle of Dom Perignon.
And guess what? Their children, John and Jennifer, and 10 of their closest friends are invited, too! Happy sailing and bon voyage!
Identical twins Britney and Bethany are high school seniors. Growing up, both had to overcome challenging learning disorders that severely delayed basic speech development. "They could hardly speak," says Jinohn, the twins' older sister. "They struggled a lot with being made fun of in class. ... A lot of times they would cry and cry. They felt like they were always behind. They failed a lot of classes. They couldn't write a complete sentence, much less an entire essay."
Britney and Bethany surprised everybody and aimed for the seemingly impossible—they were determined not only to finish high school, but to graduate at the top of their class. And they succeeded! "Both Britney and Bethany have been on the honor roll every semester they've been at high school," says Dr. Lehmanowsky, the twins' high school principal, "and currently, as seniors, they rank in the top 10 percent of their class."
Enter Clay Aiken. Before this multiplatinum star hit it big on American Idol, he was a dedicated special education teacher. When he heard about the twins' hard work, he jumped at the chance to help.
Clay heads to Nebraska to surprise Britney and Bethany at their school. "I'm here on behalf of Oprah," he tells the two ecstatic sisters. "She's honoring amazing graduating seniors this year, and so I'm here to let you know that you're on your way to Chicago to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show."
When Britney and Bethany arrive for the show, Oprah has an announcement. "So Clay told you that you were coming to a special show honoring high school graduates. But that's not really true!"
Another one of Britney and Bethany's favorite stars has a surprise...Ty Pennington of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is outfitting each sister's college dorm room with his line of home decor from Sears, Ty Pennington Style.
Ty's stylish collections will look great in the twins' dorm rooms, but there's one problem—Britney and Bethany's family can't afford to send the twins to the school of their dreams, Baylor University in Texas.
The whole family has pitched in to try to help—the twins' siblings have secretly worked extra shifts and saved $10,000, and the family has even considered selling their house in order to pay for Britney and Bethany's college education.
Ty has one more surprise for the twins. "There's one more thing I want to show you," he announces over his megaphone. "Can you come outside?"
Britney, Bethany and their family join Ty outside by the Wildest Dreams Bus. "Move that bus!" Ty orders. The bus pulls away and reveals the Baylor University spirit squad and the Rosemont Cavalier Drum Corps. "Britney and Bethany," Oprah says, "your tuition is paid! Your room and board is paid! Four years at Baylor—completely paid!"
Alltel is thrilled to surprise the twins with full four-year scholarships—including tuition, fees, books and room and board—to their dream school, Baylor University. And in recognition of Britney and Bethany's dedication to their school work despite considerable learning disabilities, Alltel is also giving their entire family free wireless phones and free service for the next four years so they can all stay in touch while the girls are away at school—including unlimited calls home, unlimited text messaging, unlimited mobile to mobile calls, unlimited nights and weekends and free nationwide long distance, all on the Alltel network.
For more information on Alltel and its commitment to its customers, communities and education, visit www.alltel.com.
For our next surprise, we headed to Minnesota to meet Rachel. Since Rachel was a child, she's kept her dream and her teeth hidden away. She says she's been living with embarrassment and shame for years.
"I have always hated my teeth and what they look like," she says. "Some people might not even know my teeth are so bad because I've covered them up so much. If it's a big laugh, [I] always hide it."
Today, Rachel keeps busy as a stay-at-home mom to her four children, including 3-year-old Jacob, who has autism. She says her teeth have gotten so bad because she's always put the needs of her family before her own.
"When it comes to children or teeth, it's always going to be children," Rachel says. "Mom can wait. ... But secretly, it's a big deal. It's hard enough being a mom with four little kids, a son with autism, and then you've got to look in the mirror and go, 'I'm not happy.' ... I feel like I've got life in me, but it doesn't come out because of my teeth."
Well, surprise! Oprah wants to put you on the top of the list today! Rachel is headed to New York City for a smile makeover!
Look at Rachel's dazzling smile now!
After Rachel arrived in New York, she met with Dr. Marc Lowenberg. Despite an emotional breakdown from a fear of dentists, Rachel agreed to go through with the procedure that would give her beautiful, pearly whites.
"It's a facade that goes over your own teeth and it recreates the color, the shape, the position of the teeth, so in Rachel's case I was able to get rid of all the darkness, whiten her smile, and make them look like she was born that way," Dr. Lowenberg says.
On Oprah After the Show, confessed his wildest dream—to practice with a Major League baseball team.
On the day of his big surprise, James believes that he's rehearsing his role as grand marshal for a parade. "I had never been in a parade before," James explains, "I thought that they wanted to make sure I don't do something stupid." When the Wildest Dreams Bus pulls up, James still doesn't realize that he's been set up. With the crowd cheering, he asks, "Is Oprah here? Are they yelling at me or do they think Oprah's here? Don't tell me it's somebody's wildest dream to meet the grand marshal."
"We're here for your wildest dream," Oprah explains. "We pulled some major league strings ... Just two miles away ... the World Series champion Boston Red Sox are in spring training!"
"Let's go," James says. "It beats parade rehearsal!"
First up, James hits the locker room. He meets the team's heavy hitters, then takes the field, runs the bases and even hits one out of the park!
James says that his favorite part of the day was getting in the cage with [hitting coach] "Papa Jack," Ron Jackson. "They were really, really nice to me and he was really helpful and he actually had me hitting it by the end of the day."
The Boston Red Sox sent along a little souvenir for James: a baseball that he'll be using to throw the first pitch at an upcoming Red Sox game! More on Oprah.com:
Since his own wildest dream came true on the hit TV show American Idol, Clay Aiken has gone multiplatinum. His album, Measure of a Man, has already sold 3 million copies!
He performs his moving hit single, "I Will Carry You."
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