ATLANTA - The 13-year-old NASCAR fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. surprised last year has passed away.
Austin Freeman was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma when he was 10. Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare bone cancer that mostly affects children. He fought through chemotherapy and radiation; in March 2015, he celebrated one year cancer-free.
But over that summer, Austin relapsed.
Later in the year, Earnhardt made a pit stop at the College Football Hall of Fame to meet Freeman. 11Alive's Matt Pearl was there to see his reaction.
"Just thank you so much," he told Earnhardt Jr. upon meeting him. "I'm trying not to tear up about this, but this means a lot. It really does."
Freeman's mother was thankful her son had the change to meet his "NASCAR idol."
“These little moments of support," Abby said at the time, "mean more to a child than you can ever imagine.”
Freeman passed away on Oct. 14, 2016. The family announced his passing in a post to his Facebook support group that read in part, "It was a long and hard Battle however he fought like a true Warrior until the very last second of life. Austin is in a better place and is getting to do the things he has not been able to enjoy for so long."
Earnhardt tweeted after he learned of Freeman's passing. He called Austin a friend he was honored to meet.