Lester Holt delivered some good news to one of his biggest fans Wednesday night.
The NBC Nightly News anchor invited 14-year-old Hunter Goldbach, who has a rare genetic disorder, and Hunter’s family to 30 Rock for a personal tour of his studio after learning about the boy’s adulation for his show.
Meeting his idol proved to be a moving experience for a teen who walks around in socks with Holt’s face emblazoned on them, his mother told TODAY.
“It was priceless. When he first saw Lester through the glass (in the newsroom), Hunter stopped dead in his tracks,” said Rebecca Goldbach, an employee relations consultant from Virginia Beach, Virginia. “He just kept staring at him like he was Santa and the Easter Bunny and a unicorn all rolled in one.”
Hunter was diagnosed at the age of 10 with cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome, or CFC, a serious condition that can manifest in abnormal facial features, slower hair growth, heart malformation and delayed mental development. Only a few hundred people worldwide are believed to have the disorder.
While the family knew that their son had major health issues from the age of eight weeks, they didn’t know the cause until a decade later. Hunter has undergone “13 surgeries, dozens of procedures and thousands of hours of therapy,” his mom said.
Hunter may use a feeding tube, a wheelchair for long distances and have the academic developmental level of a preschooler, but he’s also highly sociable and verbal. He also has very particular TV viewing habits.
“I just walked into the living room one day and I noticed one day (about two years ago) that he was standing about one foot away from the TV set,” recalled Goldbach. “And he said, ‘Be quiet, I am watching ‘Wester.'”
Holt heard about his avid devotee after a producer with NBC Nightly News read a recent article by CFC International. Two days later, Goldbach fielded a call inviting her son to Rockefeller Center to meet Holt in person.
Hunter’s family, including older sister Sarah, didn’t come to New York empty-handed. They brought two pairs of socks for Holt — including one featuring a pattern of Hunter’s face.
“I loved meeting Hunter, we had a great time on set. And what a cool gift he gave me,” said Holt. “Definitely my new favorite socks.”
Goldbach got emotional talking about the experience of watching her son sitting in the anchor chair and looking over the news script with Holt.
“One of the first things that Lester did was, when he met him, was get down on Hunter’s level to talk to him (as Hunter sat in his wheelchair) and to just engage with him, eye to eye,” said the proud mom, her voice breaking.
“You could see what an engaging man he is just by the look on his face. He was totally in the moment with Hunter.”
Hunter clearly made an impression on Holt as well.
Before the teen left the studio, Holt read over the “good night” section of his script. Hunter told the anchor, “See you tomorrow,” which is not the usual sign-off that Holt uses at the end of his broadcasts.
But the news veteran asked Hunter if he should use the phrase on his next show. The boy nodded.
“We’ll see you tomorrow,” Holt told viewers at the close of his Thursday-night show, knowing one of them in particular would appreciate those words.