Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation has raised money for Chicago youth boxing programs; celebrated "Thanksmas" in Tampa, Fla., and Hazleton, Pa.; and donated funds to hurricane relief efforts in Florida and Puerto Rico. But a teenager in St. Petersburg, Fla., may have been the biggest beneficiary of the Cubs manager's
Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation has raised money for Chicago youth boxing programs; celebrated "Thanksmas" in Tampa, Fla., and Hazleton, Pa.; and donated funds to hurricane relief efforts in Florida and Puerto Rico. But a teenager in St. Petersburg, Fla., may have been the biggest beneficiary of the Cubs manager's charity efforts.
When Aiden Hawk was 8 months old, he received a liver transplant four days before Christmas.
"They had given Aiden a seven-day life expectancy before he got his liver," his mother, Lisa Hawk, said. "It was definitely what we call a Christmas miracle."
Aiden is now 15. On Dec. 21, he celebrated his 15-year "liver-sary."
"It's a huge milestone," Lisa said. "They don't really do a lot of studies on survival rates -- they have a five- and 10-year [study], so he's done so well, and we're really thankful. He's had a lot of issues, but he's still alive. Christmas is always a special time of the year for us because that's when he had his transplant."
It wasn't just his liver that made life complicated for Aiden. His kidneys don't function well, and he has to take medications to deal with blood pressure, hormones, adrenaline and his heart rate. He can't retain fluids and is dehydrated.
Life has been complicated for the Hawk family, but Aiden had some inspiration in Maddon.
"Aiden is very inspired by Joe because Joe is so unique," Lisa said. "Aiden is different -- he's been through a lot. He just liked Joe because Joe was not typical. He's not strictly baseball -- he's so creative. Aiden was very inspired when Joe did the funny dress-ups [with the Rays]. He's always been enamored by Joe and how unique he is and how giving he is. That's why Aiden became a huge Joe fan."
Maddon's foundation treated the Hawk family to three days in Mesa, Ariz., during the Cubs' Spring Training camp, and the parents were able to surprise Aiden and his brother, Mason, now 12, with the trip.
"At that time, Aiden had been going through a lot and it was a really bad time for him," Lisa said. "I told [foundation executive director Rick Vaughn] that the trip changed him, making him feel he was valued like that. It gave him a boost, and now he's full of life and he seems very positive."
However, Mason seemed to enjoy the trip even more.
"[Aiden] has always felt a little guilty and responsible for Mason," Lisa said. "It's not something we want him to feel, but it's a big brother taking care of a little brother. Mason has gone all over the country to hospitals and has been so supportive. Aiden is such a loving brother and was so excited to see Mason have that moment, too. They're very sweet to each other and very considerate."
If Aiden was healthy, the family would be going on fishing or camping vacations. Instead, they've spent way too many days in hospitals.
"Mason has seen his brother wheeled away in ambulances and Mason has had to stay back," Lisa said. "Some of his earliest memories are him having to stay with a paramedic because I had to go in the ambulance with Aiden. It's very traumatic. There were many, many months of me being in the hospital with Aiden, and Mason with his grandparents or friends.
"Siblings of medically complex kids or chronically ill kids, they go through a lot, too," she said. "Aiden has been very sensitive to that. When this [trip] happened, Aiden said, 'Yeah, I love Joe Maddon,' but little did anybody know Mason was a lunatic Cubs fan. He named his dog Wrigley."
Thanks to the Respect 90 Foundation, the Hawks got a tour of the Cubs complex and Mason got to wear his Jacob Arrieta beard and talk to his favorite pitcher. They even sang the seventh-inning stretch at a Cactus League game.
"The Arrieta beard is now hanging up because we're waiting to find out what happens with Jake," Lisa said of Arrieta, who is a free agent. "Mason is very superstitious about the beard."
When the Cubs played the Rays in September, the Hawks were once again Maddon's guests and had a chance to go on the field before a game. Mason even told Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein that he was the reason the team won the World Series in 2016 because of the youth's superstitious ways.
Now, Aiden wants to give back to Respect 90. He's hosted a bake sale and was trying to organize a car wash.
"He's always the one who says, 'I want to do something,' and this year, he said, 'I want to do something for Joe's foundation,'" Lisa said.
Maddon's efforts made Aiden feel special, much like the recipients of efforts by the Cubs' Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo.
"I think when they have somebody like Joe or Kyle or Anthony show them, it makes them feel good, and they're modeling after that behavior," Lisa said. "Aiden has seen so many people do so many good things for him; he wants to do the same for others because he knows how it will make them feel."
So, this holiday season, take time to toast not only Aiden but the donor family who provided the liver 15 years ago. And toast Maddon and his foundation's efforts for helping two brothers enjoy a ballgame together.
Respect 90 Foundation
This was a busy year for Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation. In November, it celebrated "Thanksmas" at four shelters in Tampa and served more than 1,000 meals. Maddon hosted a Casino Night on Dec. 15 in Hazleton and followed that with another "Thanksmas" event in his hometown. He'll host a "Thanksmas" dinner in Chicago on Jan. 10.
Respect 90 also donated more than $75,000 to storm relief for Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey. When Hurricane Irma hit Tampa Bay in September, the Tampa Salvation Army lost power for several days and contacted Respect 90 for help. The foundation was able to provide meals valued at more than $6,000 for several days.
In August, Maddon's "Main Event" raised nearly $100,000 for Chicago area youth boxing programs.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.