Samuel Knorr didn’t like the idea of missing school for an orthodontic retainer check at the UW’s The Center for Pediatric Dentistry. When he came face to face with Seattle Sounders star DeAndre Yedlin, however, he was very happy he did.
Twelve-year-old Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, is a huge soccer fan. As Yedlin entered the dental operatory room and said, “Hi, buddy,” Samuel broke into a huge smile that never dimmed.
“I knew him by his face,” Samuel said, accepting a handshake and an autographed framed photo and cap from Yedlin, a speedy right back for Seattle’s Major League Soccer team.
“When he first walked in, I’m like, ‘That looks like DeAndre.’ ”
After a brief conversation with Samuel about his soccer interests and Yedlin’s trademark game-day hair styles, and posing for photos, Yedlin said, “I’m glad I could do this for you. Glad you enjoyed this dentist appointment.”
The idea for the surprise visit, which took place just before Thanksgiving, was hatched by Samuel’s dentist, third-year UW pediatric dental resident Jane Stieber, who enlisted the help of Linda Yedlin, administrator for the UW Department of Pediatric Dentistry and DeAndre’s grandmother.
Last spring, Stieber visited Yedlin’s office and noted the many newspaper photos of DeAndre, who recently came third in voting for MLS Rookie of the Year and made the MLS all-star team this year. Yedlin explained her connection to the Sounders’ first home-grown player and Stieber thought it would be great to have DeAndre and Samuel meet.
“Samuel recently survived a roller-coaster orthodontic journey here at The Center with a great clinical outcome,” said Stieber, who has been treating Samuel for two years, back when he was in braces. “He lived in an orphanage in China until age 8 and has two adopted sisters from China with special needs who are treated by our dentists at Seattle Children’s.” The Center for Pediatric Dentistry is a partnership between the UW and Seattle Children’s hospital. It has particular expertise in treating children with special needs, including a clinic for children with autism.
The initial appointments were tough for Samuel, who “wanted to rip his braces off,” said Stieber. When she found out Samuel loved soccer, she started reading up on the Sounders, hoping to earn his trust. Samuel became so comfortable with their conversations that he started correcting her “facts.”
The Knorr family – all of whom were in on the surprise for Samuel – includes parents Cheri and Gregg, and sisters Sarah, 9, and Hannah, 10. Brothers Joshua, also 12, and Andrew, 15. who are soccer players and Sounders fans in their own right, persuaded their mom to take them along to Samuel’s appointment.
Samuel has played in the TOPSoccer program, designed for children with disabilities. Now he plays FIFA video games daily.
“I’ve been working on this (surprise meeting) for months,” said Stieber. “It was perfect.”
“I can’t believe it,” said Samuel as he left the exam room. “My teacher is a Sounders fan. I can tell her I finally met a Sounders player.”