The wet paint tickled a little less with every brush stroke, but his curiosity continued to intensify. The young boy could hardly wait for the big reveal.
Trying to distract himself, he looked around. He saw children with funnel cake powder dusted on their cheeks. He saw children with smiles gleaming from ear to ear.
He saw children who had patiently sat in the same metal chair before him. Some had been transformed into dainty butterflies, others into courageous lions.
With a few final brush strokes, it was time for his big reveal. He had been transformed into an almighty dragon — one whose tail highlighted the scar on his head.
The scar is remnant of the surgery he had.
Nine-year-old Nick Wolf was diagnosed with brain cancer on Memorial Day in 2011.
After his surgery, he couldn’t even walk with the assistance of a walker.
Within a month, he was running.
Then in December 2012, an MRI showed there was regrowth. His mother, Christina Wolf, said Nick will be done with chemotherapy in March 2015 if all goes well.
But like the dragon he was painted into, Nick fights back.
“He does not want the cancer to define him,” Christina said. “He wants to be a typical kid.”
Nick was named the honorary team captain of the baseball team in August after being adopted through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a program that pairs children with pediatric brain tumors with high school and college sports teams across the country.
As captain of the USF baseball team, Nick can be one of the boys.
When the season starts, he will become more involved with the team.
“We’re going to have him out to the games, have him in the dugout a couple games next to Coach (Lelo) Prado,” junior infielder Kyle Teaf said. “Being our captain and all, he’ll lead us in huddles.”
In the meantime, Nick and his younger brother, Scott, have become an integral part of the baseball family, and are excited to watch the first game in February.
In September, Nick was joined by his teammates on the CureSearch Walk in St. Petersburg, helping to raise more than $45,000 for pediatric cancer research.
Nick’s leadership inspires the team even when he’s not in the dugout, redshirt sophomore Nik Alfonzo said.
Alfonzo said Prado worked the players into the ground on the first day of 6 a.m. workouts.
“Towards the middle, towards the end, I thought about Nick,” Alfonzo said. “I tried to fathom what it was that he had to go through, and it pushed me through my entire workout.”
With his smile and spirit, Nick brightens the lives of many. In return, team members said they hope to show their appreciation by brightening his day with text messages.
“We’ll go ahead and send him a message saying, ‘You’re the best team captain a team could ask for,’” Alfonzo said.
The team also sends messages to Scott, who attends practices with his brother.
“One of the things about childhood cancer is the siblings tend to get overlooked a lot,” Christina said. “The boys have been really good at including Scotty, so that he doesn’t feel left out.”
Nick is a source of strength and inspiration for the team, even through things as simple as his high-fives he gives team members.
“He’s just taught us to keep smiling through everything,” Teaf said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a big, old smile on his face.”
The camaraderie between Nick and the team has shown Prado the whole journey has been worth it.
“Seeing him smiling and having a good time around the players is what it’s all about,” Prado said. “I’m the luckiest coach in the world.”