Luke Kuechly surprises girl with cerebral palsy, autism as date - | WBTV Charlotte

Luke Kuechly surprises girl with cerebral palsy, autism as date to 21st birthday party

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is making dreams come true on the football field... and off. 

Jessica Hayes, a 21-year-old who has been featured as one of our Molly's Kids, is one of Luke's biggest fans. Jessica has cerebral palsy, autism, cortical blindness and hydrocephalus, which is an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain.

She just recently moved to Newton in Catawba County. She lives with her parents, older sister and younger brother and sister.

“She's always positive," said her mom, Leslie Burleson. "We go and we do. We experience and live big. Jessica helps me around the house, and her brothers and sisters involve her in ways they can."

Last week was Jessica's 21st birthday. It's a moment her mom calls a "real moment in time for her."

When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Jessica said she had one dream, "to meet Carolina Panthers player Luke Kuechly and give him one of my famous hugs."

Friday, Jessica had a 21st birthday party where she could dance from her wheelchair and hang out with her friends, with the help of Dream on 3, an organization that helps children with chronic illnesses, developmental disabilities, or life-altering conditions.

What she didn't know was Luke was coming to surprise her.

WBTV's Molly Grantham met up with Kuechly in uptown Charlotte Friday night and the pair hopped into a limo. Dream on 3 organized the whole event.

MOBILE USERS: Click here for photos from the surprise

"Have you ever done stuff like this?" Grantham asked. "Yes and no," he answered. "Not as organized as this."

"I just like to think of myself as a normal guy," Kuechly said. "But if I can go down there and make her happy for her birthday, makes it fun and worth it."

"Hopefully she's excited. Hopefully she doesn't get to talkin and think..." he trailed off.

"Are you thinking she's not going to be excited to meet you?" Molly asked.

"[Hopefully] she's not thinking, 'ooohhhhh... I wanted Cam to come'," he joked.

Meantime, while waiting for her party, Jessica can tell something is going on. She's mostly non-verbal, but facial expressions and constant kisses to mom give her away. 

What she didn't know was #59 is waiting with flowers.

And when Luke hears organizers say "I have someone here I want to meet you" he makes his big entrance.

"Hey Jessica! How are you? I hear you give famous hugs," he said.,

Jessica holds on tight. Luke hugs her right back.
 
"I got some flowers for you," he said. "We're going to make our way over to your birthday party, sound good?"

Jessica's bewildered mom follows, softly whispering "My daughter is leaving with Luke Kuechly!"

Mom puts Jessica in the limo, while Luke put her wheelchair in back. They drive back to uptown Charlotte and Luke wheels her into the party.

After giving her a tour of the party, she showed Luke, from her wheelchair, her favorite dance move: the whip and nae nae.

The 24-year-old Superstar Panthers player, wearing his jeans and a hoodie, takes pictures, signs Jessica's new jersey and talks with every single one of her friends. He even leads the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday."

"It kinda goes both ways. I hopefully can make her night fun and hopefully she can make my night fun in return," he said earlier in the limo. "Kinda cool because it's not a one-way street."

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