See How the Gamecocks Made a Dying Fan’s Lifelong Wish Come True
Prepare the tissues, y'all.
The first time Gloria Butler's story brought us to tears was when her family surprised her with tickets to a South Carolina Gamecocks game at Williams-Brice Stadium. For the 69-year-old lifelong fan recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, it was a dream come true.
Butler has been a fan of the Gamecocks ever since she watched a South Carolina-Clemson matchup more than 50 years ago. Today, her Laurens County bedroom is filled with Gamecocks paraphernalia—from keychains to T-shirts.
But as a single mother, often working multiple jobs at once, Butler could never afford the expense of going to a game.
So, when an August diagnosis of stage III lung cancer brought a six- to 12-month life expectancy with it, her daughter Mandy Power and her fiancé (a Clemson fan) set out to make her mother's wish to attend a South Carolina football game finally come true.
Fast forward to a few weeks later. The second time Butler made us cry was on Saturday, when footage of her hugging Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp and quarterback Jake Bentley before they took on Texas A&M started to flood social media. By the time we saw her being rolled down the Gamecock Walk, with fans cheering and reaching their hands out to touch her, we were done for.
"This has always been my dream, and I wouldn't ask for nothing more than this right here," Butler told The Charlotte Observer. "I'm just glad I got to see it before my life ended."
Former Gamecocks defensive lineman Ulric Jones arranged the Gamecock Walk for Butler, as well as tour of the field and stadium, and a photo op with Gamecock legend George Rogers. Jones, who recently lost his grandmother, told the Observer that he wanted to help make Butler's day memorable.
"I'm doing my best not to break down crying," Jones said. "I'm doing everything in my power to make sure, if this is her last experience, it's her best experience."
She even got to meet her all-time favorite South Carolina football player: Marcus Lattimore.
At halftime, assistant director of football operations Kim Fields relocated Butler and her family from their seats to a patio by Muschamp's office. From there they watched the last half of the game. Gamecocks staff also gifted Butler a custom jersey, complete with her name and the number 49 (her birth year).
Unfortunately, the game ended in heartbreak for the Gamecocks, who lost 26-23 to the Aggies. But Butler has no complaints.
"She felt like royalty," Power told the Observer. "Anything she wanted or asked for, they were willing to give it. She felt so good and had such an eventful day, she was asleep five minutes into our drive (home)."
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Butler came home with so much garnet and black paraphernalia that she plans to start covering the walls of her second bedroom. When the time comes, she plans to give it all to her grandchildren.
"All of the Gamecock people here have been great. All of them have showed their support toward me," she told the Observer. "I just hate that my time's running out, because I would love to be a part of this for the rest of my life."