ATLANTA, Ga. (WHNT) - A 7-year-old Athens boy, nicknamed 'Lil Bama', captured the attention of the national media as he cheered on his favorite team playing in the SEC Championship in Atlanta. On Saturday, Ryan Kitchens was seated on the first row in the Georgia Dome with his mother and stepfather, Jasmine and Greg Davis, and other friends from North Alabama.
WHNT NEWS 19 has been following Ryan's fight for life against medulloblastoma for months. His story and his spirit have captured the hearts of thousands of people across the state of Alabama and beyond. And his love for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team has captured the eyes and hearts of the University's players and coaches.
On Saturday, CBS Network photographers caught Ryan, zooming in on him and his entourage during the fourth quarter of the game. Ryan and his friends wore crimson colored shirts with 'Ryan' printed on them. The shirts have been selling to raise money for a foundation that Ryan's mother has set up in her son's honor to help other families who have children battling various forms of cancer. Jasmine Davis told WHNT NEWS 19 she was amazed at how many strangers approached her and her family asking to purchase a shirt to support Ryan's fight for life.
After the Tide's last-minute victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, Ryan and his family stopped by the WHNT NEWS 19 Satellite Truck to snap a quick picture with WHNT NEWS 19 Meteorologist Ben Smith, another big Alabama fan.
Jasmine Davis said Alabama coach Nick Saban has referred to Ryan as a 'good luck charm' and has met with Ryan and his family on several occasions. Ryan has also become a close friend and inspiration to Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Barrett Jones, and other Alabama players.
Ryan has been fighting two brain tumors since 2011, when he was diagnosed with them in the first week of attending the first grade in Athens. Doctors warned his family he has limited time and expected he may pass away before Christmas 2012. Ryan's last MRI revealed the tumors had doubled in size, but Ryan continues to keep busy and happy following the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.
While doctors have discouraged Ryan from flying anywhere due to his health, his mother says she will try to find a way to get him to Miami for the National Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame. The excitement and energy seem to be inspiring Ryan to keep fighting against the tumors.
USA Today also caught on to Ryan's passion for his team, posting a picture of him on their Facebook page. You can see it by clicking here.
WHNT NEWS 19 will continue following Ryan's story of fighting for life with fun and faith. WHNT NEWS 19 first learned of Ryan when a friend emailed seeking help for Ryan's family caught in a cruel predicament. They were tapped out of money from being by Ryan's side as he battled the tumors at St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, and didn't know how they would afford Ryan's final arrangements. Since WHNT NEWS 19's story aired, generous donors have given more than $40,000 to cover all expenses.