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2007 Miracle Kid takes his love for baseball to St. Louis

Miracle Kid Josiah Viera gets and autograph from Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday.

Since being selected as a Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger Miracle Kid in 2007 and the National Miracle Kid Champion for Pennsylvania in 2009, Josiah Viera has been an inspiration to everyone he meets.

Josiah, 10, of Hegins, PA, has Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, a genetic condition often referred to as “early aging disease.” Despite battling Progeria, a disease that affects only about 40 children worldwide and has a life expectancy of 8 to 13 years, Josiah maintains a positive attitude.

From birth, Josiah has been followed by a team of pediatric specialists at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital.

“Josiah is doing very well. He had a stroke in 2008 and developed seizures afterward. Since then, he has been seizure free and has no residual effects from the stroke,” said Colleen Walsh Eckhart, DO, Geisinger Pediatric Hospitalist. “He has had a clean bill of health from a cardiac standpoint so far as well. For kids with progeria, strokes and heart attacks are the two most worrisome things.”

One thing that keeps Josiah positive is his love for baseball. In 2013, he was invited by Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger to a special fundraising event during a State College Spikes game.

Josiah threw out the first pitch at the game and hung out in the dugout with the players. What was a memorable day for Josiah turned out to be even more memorable for the Spikes.

They immediately fell in love with Josiah, inviting him back  season after season, according to State College Spikes Vice President and General Manager Jason Dambach.

“He came out for opening night, and we welcomed him with open arms,” Dambach said.

Josiah has an open invitation to all of the Spikes home games and has been named an honorary bench coach. He even traveled to New York to watch the Spikes, the New York-Penn League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, win the league championship in 2014.

“He was an inspiration to everyone,” Dambach said. “I don’t know if we would have won the championship without him.”

After the championship game, Spikes then-manager Oliver Marmol called to share some exciting news.

“Ollie said St. Louis had called Josiah up,” said Josiah’s grandfather Dave Bohner. “He said Josiah was invited to join the Spikes on the field at Busch Stadium for a special ceremony.”

On Sept. 18, 2014, Josiah took the field in St. Louis with the Spikes and was introduced as the team’s inspiration and honorary bench coach.

“It is amazing what Josiah gives back by inspiring anyone who meets him. They can see the obstacles he overcomes every day,” Dr. Walsh said. “His grandfather said that the Spikes players tell him that Josiah has given them much more than they could ever give him.”

Known as a die-hard Phillies fan, Josiah gives a smile when asked who his new favorite baseball team is.

“It is the Cardinals,” he says. “The Phillies…” He gives a thumbs down.