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Willie Cauley-Stein surprises 11-year-old Toby Foster with a visit

Yesterday, I shared the story of Toby Foster, an 11-year-old UK fan suffering from mitochondrial disease, a progressive, incurable metabolic disorder which causes a deficit in life sustaining energy. Toby’s story should be familiar to you by now. This summer, a large blood clot has moved to Toby’s brain, making life pretty difficult for him and his family. He has a lot of restrictions, but was able to serve as Andrew Harrison’s assistant on Sunday at the Calipari ProCamp in Cincinnati, albeit in a wheelchair.

Toby was originally supposed to go to the ProCamp on Saturday during Willie Cauley-Stein’s session, but was too ill. One of Willie’s friends works the ProCamps and told Willie about Toby and how he was Toby’s favorite player. Unbeknownst to Toby, Willie decided he wanted to pay him a visit before he headed back to California this week. Toby’s mother, Amy, was in on the surprise, and last night, Willie showed up at their door. Here’s the story of the visit in Amy’s words and pictures:

Toby, Willie, and Willie’s friend Jamie

Willie stayed for well over an hour. I baked brownies–Willie likes the middle ones! We hung out in the play room, talking like he’s NOT a top draft pick, NBA star. Willie’s a fan of the playroom. 🙂 The boys (Toby and Willie) decided that Wille’s more Batman, and Toby’s more Captain America, so they would make a great team. They were going to play video games, but we never stopped talking long enough for that. Willie is a great kid! He and Toby really hit it off.

Then Toby showed Willie his room. Willie was quite impressed with Toby’s Star Wars room! He was taking pictures. It was adorable. Toby showed Willie the picture of him he keeps by his bed to remind himself to stay strong. Willie was so touched that he asked to take a picture of it. What a sweetheart.

He’s such a good-hearted, regular guy. He gave us his number so he and Toby could stay in touch. They’ve already been texting each other. Shortly after Willie left, Toby was due for a shot. He was on such a high he didn’t even feel it! He is now walking through the house, breathing deeply, saying “I’m breathing in Willie’s cloud of awesomeness before it’s gone.” What a character.

Amy said that as soon as Toby’s travel restrictions are lifted, they’re going to go see Willie play in Sacramento. She also wrote me to tell me more about the visit, and said she touched by how genuinely interested Willie was in Toby’s story. Here’s part of her message:

Toby told him about how he uses cool band-aids after his belly needles, and arm shots, pretending they’re tattoos. Willie laughed about that with Toby, but then asked about his condition (mitochondrial disease) and weekly treatments, and all the needles. This 7-foot man covered in tats, couldn’t believe Toby’s strength, and all he endures with mitochondrial disease.

Especially now, with the new, giant, and dangerous blood clot, and how that has made life even more difficult and scary, Toby has so many restrictions. He’s not allowed to play contact sports, rough house, ride a roller coaster, or jump on the trampoline in his backyard. Toby always required rest and accommodation to participate in certain activities because of the energy crisis in his body. But now, things that took little energy like bumper cars and go-carts are even out, because he’s on such a high dose of medication for the clot. The risk of internal bleeding takes lots away. Willie said that learning about what Toby goes through puts things in perspective, and that it was an honor to get to spend time with him. Willie’s genuine compassion is palpable.

They also talked about the amazing, fly- through-the-air dunk in Florida. Yeah, you know the one. The “Am I really seeing this? No way!” game-changing dunk. Toby told him about the note I wrote him with the picture of that dunk. Toby keeps it taped by his bed to remind him of his strength, and that anything is possible. I loved when Willie said, “Someone else took the wheel on that one.” Amen, Willie. We know the Someone. Later, Toby showed Willie it by his bed. Toby told Willie, “You’ve gotten me through some rough times when mito was gettin’ the best of me. That made me feel stronger.” Willie was so touched that he asked to take a picture of it.

What a night! With a heart filled with as much kindness as he is tall, Willie came into our home, and forever changed the world of a boy fighting a very big battle. What an amazing young man. Toby has made quite a friend in Willie! He’s even got his number so he can stay in touch with Willie. Willie is a hero for reasons that far exceed his incredible basketball talent. I love that his stage is growing. Willie’s the kind of player that when their kids look up to him, moms can be happy with their choice in heroes.

To learn more about Toby and his fight, visit or Amy’s Facebook page.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

20 Comments for Willie Cauley-Stein surprises 11-year-old Toby Foster with a visit

  1. Ridge Runner
    1:02 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Truly awesome WCS…

  2. Old Henry Man
    1:08 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    I always liked WCS, and the Mother is not bad

  3. Catsby80
    1:10 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    What an awesome story! I hope & pray this young guy’s battle gets easier. Get well soon, Toby!

  4. Boogs457
    1:22 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Get well Toby. Nice dress, momma.

  5. Wildcatswin
    1:24 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    That’s Willie’s woman or “friend”

  6. BobKYCats
    1:30 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Literally brought tears to my eyes.

  7. Jeff Schrembs
    1:32 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    WCS has a heart of compassion that is second to…none.
    The things this man has done, to help those suffering and/or in need, has been a blessing to behold.
    WCS is unique in many ways and good for him.
    It is my hope that UK players, alumni, coaches, department, etc. continue to have charitable outreach programs and I thank them for it.
    Being born and raised in Kentucky I have always said, and believed, that the majority of the residents of Kentucky are hard working – caring – loyal – spiritual – etc. Over the (approximately) six decades I have lived, and worked in, many parts of the United States and the beauty of Kentucky is more than the grass. More than the fields. More than the horse raising, and racing, community. Kentucky is an honorable place and I am proud to call it my home.
    WCS I wish you success in all of your endeavors.
    Take care and may God bless you all.

    Jeff Schrembs

  8. marco UK fan
    1:45 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    I never tire of these stories.

    It seems to me that Cal instills an attitude to give back to the community.

  9. clhcat
    1:49 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Awesome post. Great kid….great Willie! It does seem that this type of public give back is far more discernable under Cal…….BBN

  10. CatSinceBirth
    1:58 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Seems all we ever want is the best basketball player. In recent years we have been fortunate to not only get guys with great basketball ability, but equally great young men. Win or lose, still gotta love the character of the guys Cal brings in.

  11. Scarsnbars
    2:01 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    The rest of the country looks at Kentucky fans and thinks we are a bunch of ignorant rednecks. They just don’t get how much more these players mean to us than statistics, and how Cal keeps bringing in such high character guys. The ones like Willie truly “get it”,and stories like this make me prouder than hanging banners.

  12. DavidP19
    2:11 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    I have felt an equal amount of pride, albeit different, in the QUALITY/ CHARACTER of our players and in their TALENT/ACHIEVEMENT .

  13. DanielleB
    2:12 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Judging by the picture with WCS’s friend in it. Someone just might think that Ryan was right in saying Willie has a girl in Lexington… Glad to see a little boy so happy. This is what makes Kentucky so amazing!

  14. J-Dub421
    3:28 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    Willie is fabulous, and good luck Toby. Keep fighting!

  15. Lawrence K Brown
    3:46 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    What a wonderful sharing of a moment that despite everything else shows what is possible through acts of kindness, love, caring. I’m so proud of the character WCS, and all the young men Cal has brought through this program. This class has set a standard, not just for the future teams, but for all of us, as Wildcat fans in our everyday life.

  16. Way to go Willie, and prayers for Toby and his family!

  17. What'sThisSaltyDischarge?
    5:24 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    I may need to see a doctor. It may be leaky eye disease. I get the feeling Toby AND Willie each met his hero. Between the folks who raised these kids and Coach Cal it seems they are doing something right.

  18. NotSatire
    9:50 pm August 4, 2015 Permalink

    MKG, WCS, Towns…these guys are true Wildcat gems.

  19. Amy Polly Foster
    8:33 pm August 6, 2015 Permalink

    I’m Toby’s mom. Willie’s compassion and kindness are so genuine and real. It was beautiful watching him and Toby together. This was not a “media” visit. Or a visit that was part of a program that would likely get media attention. KSR found out about it only because the writer and I are Facebook friends. Willie and our friend, Jaimie, stopped by, and stayed for well over an hour. When Willie arrived, he was wearing the Team Toby bracelet Toby sent him. Toby’s world has forever been changed by Willie’s kindness. In fact, I texted Willie last night during Toby’s treatment to tell him that Toby was so busy telling his nurses about his amazing visit, that he didn’t seem to even notice the pain. (Toby’s subcutaneous infusions require lots of needles in the belly.) Willie texted back. And he and Toby have texted since his visit as well. This was not a fly-by photo op visit. It’s the beginning of a sweet friendship between a boy and his hero. It’s genuine. It’s real. It’s Willie.