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A granted wish; Berrendo Middle School shooting victim to meet ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ cast

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Nathaniel Tavarez reads a card made out to him while at his send off party before he and his family travel to Los Angeles, California to meet the cast of "Grey's Anatomy" as part of his wish with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Tavarez, now a junior at Goddard High School, was one of the two victims of the Berrendo Middle School shooting in 2014. On Friday evening, Tavarez was joined with family members, friends and RISD teachers at Roswell's Red Lobster to celebrate his wish being granted. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Having spent so much time in a hospital, one wouldn’t expect someone to have much of an interest in the medical field, but for Nathaniel Tavarez, it’s not only a passion, but a prominent theme within his favorite television series.

Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Berrendo Middle School shooting victim will be getting the chance to meet the cast of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” in California next week.

Tavarez, now a Goddard High School junior, told the Daily Record Friday evening at his sendoff party he was introduced to the TV show by his sister.

Since then, he’s been hooked.

“Ever since I first started watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve always wanted to meet them,” Tavarez said. “Now that it’s coming to reality — that’s amazing.”

Tavarez said he’s particularly drawn to Ellen Pompeo’s portrayal of Meredith Grey.

“She makes the show,” he said. “If she were to disappear, that would be the end of it.”

The former Berrendo Middle School student was joined by family members, friends, and teachers — past and present.

“That’s who he wanted to be here, was his teachers,” said mother Donna Tavarez. “They’re very, very involved with him and they’ve helped him tremendously throughout this whole ordeal, and that’s who he wanted to invite.”

Nathaniel Tavarez explain his educators helped develop him.

“The teachers that I invited today, those are my best friends,” Nathaniel Tavarez said. “They’ve helped me through everything. They’re the reason why I am where I am today.”

Reading teacher Sherry Armbruster and security official Kevin Hayes, both of BMS, said the shooting created a bond between them and Tavarez.

“Kevin and I got to know Nathaniel very well after he was injured at Berrendo Middle School,” Armbruster said. “We became very close with Nathaniel and had built a really good relationship.

“He is kind of a hero to us, and we just — respect him, so much, and his whole wonderful family.”

The reading teacher was at the gymnasium along with Tavarez when the 2014 shooting began.

“It was a long time, but sometimes it seems like just yesterday,” Armbruster said. “It amazes me how quickly the time has passed and how Nathaniel has grown up so much.”

Hayes, reflecting on Tavarez’s wish, said seeing it actually come to life is great.

“I’m really happy to see his wish come true,” Hayes said. “I know he’s going to have a great time, and I would really like to go with him too.”

Armbruster, also filled with excitement, noted that Tavarez has big plans to have a career in the medical field. She said his interest in the medical drama just makes sense.

“In the past few years, everything that Nathaniel has been through regarding hospitals and the doctors, visits, and stuff, he has really gotten a passion for medicine,” Armbruster said. “I think that’s a big component of why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ has been such an important part of his life — besides the fact that he’s in love with Meredith.”

Nathaniel Tavarez said on Monday, he’ll be able to meet the entire cast of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

KRQE News, who was also present at the sendoff, asked Nathaniel Tavarez if he would be able to get any sleep with all of the excitement.

“Probably not, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep up there,” he laughed. “It makes me nervous, but so excited that I’m going to be able to meet the cast.”

The Goddard High student said he was thankful for the Make-A-Wish Foundation granting his wish.

“They’re the only ones that could have made that happen,” Nathaniel Tavarez said. “Without them, I mean — this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Thinking back on the 2014 shooting, Nathaniel, who is blind in one eye and has partial vision in the other, said he was at first hesitant of telling reporters his story.

“But I feel like getting it out would help,” he said. “(I thought) letting other people see it, it would help them as well.”

Nathaniel Tavarez said he also wanted to extend his thanks to Ms. Gibson, Ms. Gutierrez, Ms. Reyes, Ms. Romero, Ms. Armbruster and Mr. Hayes.

“Ms. Romero is actually teaching me how to read braille,” he said. “Ms. Reyes, she’s the most amazing counselor. Ms. Gibson and Ms. Gutierrez and Ms. Romero — they’re my support group. All of them are my support group.

“After it all happened, I mean, it was an instant bond, you know? It’ll never be broken, that’s for sure.”

Joe Vargas, wish granter based out of Ruidoso for the Make-A-Wish Foundation explained that Tavarez’s wish will be one to remember.

“The whole family gets to go with him and — it a lot of good memories,” Vargas said. “That’s the whole idea of Make-A-Wish — to get these kids and their families a time where they don’t have to worry or think about hospitals or doctors or medicine, and just go have a good family time.”

The Tavarez family extended appreciation toward the foundation, as well as Berrendo Middle School staff and the medical personnel that had helped Nathaniel Tavarez.

“Everybody has really pulled together and has made it possible for Nathaniel,” Donna Tavarez said. “And we really appreciate it.”

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.