FOXBOROUGH — Colton Fontaine and Alyssa Drouin sat in the third row at the 50-yard line, behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bench, for the most anticipated regular season football game ever.
But the best part of this story isn’t really about two lucky fans from Methuen who were in close proximity to the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady battle Sunday night.
The best part is how Fontaine and Drouin got there in Section 130, Row 3, Seats 19 and 20.
Fontaine’s story was documented in The Eagle-Tribune in March. The former Newburyport High baseball star who played at Salem State, later joining the coaching staff, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition that occurs when the body stops producing enough blood cells.
Fewer than 1,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year, and those affected are left fatigued and more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding. The only known potential cure is a bone marrow transplant.
The diagnosis happened at a tough time as Fontaine and Drouin got a dog and planned on moving in together while she started working toward her master’s degree.
So the engaged couple moved in with Drouin’s parents, whose dad, Ron Drouin, is a former Lawrence High baseball star and the current Tewksbury High athletic director.
“It’s like everything hit at once,” said Alyssa, 25. “We were looking to get out on our own, but with him needing so much medical attention, an apartment wasn’t going to happen, especially since we had the dog.”
As expenses not covered by insurance piled up, friends and family started a GoFundMe page. Then, there was a golf tournament in June at Beverly Tennis & Golf, where Fontaine is a member.
An executive from NESN, who played in the charity tourney, decided that day to donate the company’s seats for the Bucs-Pats game Sunday.
It drew a whopping $6,500 from a player in the tournament in an auction. It helped Fontaine in a big way as more than $60,000 was owed for medical expenses for ongoing treatment.
It really was a great day.
The days, though, got better.
About six weeks ago, Drouin received a call from her uncle – Ron Carpentier of North Andover, who played in the tournament in June. He told her to check her email.
The two tickets were there.
“He ended up getting ahold of the guy who originally got the tickets in the auction,” Alyssa said. “I didn’t know what to say. I’m the biggest Tom Brady fan ever. It was an amazing thing to do.”
It gets better.
Fontaine’s difficult and arduous immunotherapy treatments helped put his illness in remission without a bone marrow transplant, which will eventually be needed.
More good news came. Fontaine got word from Dana-Farber that it finally found a bone marrow match for him, which means a transplant would happen down the road.
Fontaine, 26, still has a long ways to go in his battle. The Salem State baseball coach has about six more months of transfusions and taking an abundance of medicine.
When the call came from Uncle Rob about the tickets, it was like a crescendo of good news, like the cherry on top.
“Obviously, this has been a really tough year,” Fontaine said. “I’ve been so lucky to have so many people support me. It really has been incredible. Rob (Carpentier) didn’t have to do this. But honestly, it’s an incredible gift. It has helped make the whole process a little easier to take.”
Alyssa’s two aunts are season ticket holders, which meant there would be a nice tailgate event to attend. They got to the Gillette Stadium parking lot before the Red Sox game at 3 p.m. and planned on watching the other NFL games outside, too, before heading inside to witness NFL history.
“I love Tom Brady. He’s my all-time favorite,” Alyssa said. “But I am a Patriots fan first. So I’m pulling for the Patriots. This is honestly the most incredible game I’ve ever attended.”
“I am a lucky guy,” he said. “I’m a big Patriots fan. I love Tom Brady. I’ve been to a decent amount of Patriots games over the years, but this tops them all. I just have to say a lot of people have come through, a lot of people involved in sports. Believe me, it has really helped me get through this.”
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.