Caroline Hartley of Scarborough (right) poses with of the Breanna Stewart Seattle Storm prior to Friday night's WNBA game in Hartford against the Connecticut Sunday. A Facebook video of an emotional Hartley receiving tickets to the game as a birthday present led the 12-year-old and her family to receive VIP treatment courtesy of the Suns. Stewart, a former University of Connecticut star, is one of Hartley's favorite players.
Credit: Courtesy of Maribeth Hartley

It’s really no surprise that 12-year-old Caroline Hartley of Scarborough had a favorable reaction to the basketball-related birthday present she received on the Fourth of July given her bloodlines in the sport.

Her grandfather is Dick Whitmore, the longtime former men’s basketball coach at Colby College in Waterville. Uncles Dickie and Kevin both played college basketball, with Dickie at Division I Brown University while Kevin earned Division III All-American honors while playing for his father at Colby.

And two of Caroline’s cousins, Katie and Maggie, are varsity players at South Portland High School.

But her excited videotaped reaction full of shock, joy and tears after receiving tickets to Friday’s WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm taped to a basketball, and the social media response to it, has transformed the gift into even more of a night to remember.

“We caught her reaction on film, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it,” Caroline’s mother, Maribeth Hartley, said. “But everybody that was there — my dad and mom and Kevin and his family were there — we all figured someone should see it because it was such a great reaction.”

Maribeth made the video her first-ever Tweet.

“I just asked anybody I knew that I talked to that had a Twitter account to retweet it,” she said.

That trail eventually led to Maribeth’s nephew, Steve Robinson, a Dexter native and executive producer of the Boston-based Howie Carr radio show.

“Somebody that came on the show from the Providence Journal tweeted it and (former University of Connecticut and WNBA star) Rebecca Lobo saw it and she retweeted it, and then it went viral,” Maribeth said. “The Connecticut Sun got in touch with me almost immediately and said they wanted to make it the best day of Caroline’s life.”

The Sun sent Caroline and her family team gear to wear to the game, upgraded their tickets and provided Caroline a pregame tour of the team’s home at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, as well as a chance to meet some of the players upon their arrival at approximately 5 p.m.

The team also invited her to attend the postgame press conference that will include current Storm players Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, both former UConn stars.

“Breanna Stewart’s one of my favorite players,” Caroline said. “I’ve really liked the Seattle Storm ever since she got into the WNBA and was placed on that team.”

Caroline, who will attend the game with her mother; father, Jim Hartley; and brother Jack, has had mixed emotions to seeing herself on Twitter.

“At first I thought it was kind of embarrassing, and then when I found out that it made so many people so happy and happy for me because I got the tickets it made me feel a little better,” said Caroline, a rising seventh-grader at Scarborough Middle School who will play guard on the school’s basketball team this winter. “But it’s still kind of embarrassing because I don’t usually cry a lot, so it’s kind of weird because now so many people have seen me cry.

“I just think it’s crazy and amazing that one little post about someone getting so excited about one of their ultimate dreams coming true can go so viral in just a few days.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...