On Saturday, March 17th, Atlanta United honored LJ Tucker as the special guest to drive the ceremonial Golden Spike—one of the biggest honors in Major League Soccer! Atlanta United has done an outstanding job of connecting their fans with the Atlanta community and providing once in a lifetime experiences for special kids like LJ!
LJ is 5 years old and went to Walt Disney World with Bert’s Big Adventure in 2018! LJ is currently battling DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), a highly aggressive brain tumor that is difficult to treat. Since his diagnosis in 2017, LJ has endured radiation and chemotherapy treatments, along with numerous medical trials, MRIs, EEGs and hospital visits. Atlanta United and Bert’s Big Adventure felt this experience represented LJ’s journey since his diagnosis—one of strength, courage and support. Despite his daily battles, LJ doesn’t let his diagnosis get in the way of doing his favorite things… like enjoying soccer!
LJ and his family were picked up in the official Atlanta United G-Wagon, a Mercedes-Benz wrapped in red and black stripes with their logo, and were given a police escort by the Newnan County Police Department. The family arrived to Mercedes-Benz stadium several hours before the game with a list of awesome surprises ahead of them! The family was immediately brought to the field where family photos and a welcome message were displayed on the big screen. LJ and Bert kicked the ball around on the field before meeting the team to give them good luck high-fives! LJ and his family then got a tour of the team’s locker room and met Tata Martinez, head coach of the Atlanta United! Promptly at 7:20, the Tucker family was brought to the platform where the famous Golden Spike ceremony occurs. LJ bravely stood up in front of 52,000 people and hammered the spike down, making both organizations extremely proud! The entire stadium gathered together and stood united around LJ and the Golden Spike, a symbol of strength and unity.
The team provided LJ with a private suite right behind the net that was filled with all of this favorite things—Mac & Cheese, hot dogs, pizza, cake and doughnuts! LJ and his family enjoyed the game while learning all of the chants from the Atlanta United fan section. LJ threw his hands in the air and gave everyone in the suite a high five when they scored each of their 4 goals against the Vancouver White Caps. It was an action packed game that left everyone fist bumping and chanting “ATL” as they left the stadium.
It was an unforgettable evening for the Tucker family–they had smiles on their faces the entire night. A huge thank you to Atlanta United for going above and beyond for this family! The Atlanta United crew thought of every detail from the decorations in the suite, a cut out of his face that the fans held, to a customized jersey and name plate. LJ has endured a lot over the past year and still has a tough battle ahead of him but he was able to escape chemo and hospital visits for an amazing night thanks to Atlanta United. Make sure you reserve a spot at the next home game to cheer them on! Last but not least, thank you to photographer Kyle Hess with Atlanta United and videographer Nathan at MOVA (Masters of Visual Arts)!