Many of them traveled for nearly 24 hours to arrive in Curitiba, one of the host cities for the World Cup. They arrived tired and jet lagged, but full of anticipation. By the next morning, I could see barely any sign of fatigue. Maybe being just hours from seeing their first live World Cup game had some affect. As the wish kids waited in the lobby, I could see them pull together in groups. I overheard more than a few conversations about the challenges they've all faced.
Just hours later, all the Make-A-Wish families marched to the Arena de Baixada, along with some incredible volunteers from the Brazil Make-A-Wish affiliate. Just before we entered the stadium, 16-year-old Andres spent a few minutes sharing his thoughts with me.
“I met a couple of really cool guys who have been through leukemia, as well,” he said. “They love soccer, I love soccer, so we have lots to bond over … coming to the World Cup with them is really cool.”
Later in the week, I had a chat with Andres' mother, Ivette. She sees a change in all the kids. She noticed they were a bit stoic when they arrived, reluctant to talk about the circumstances that made them eligible for a wish (for the record, I'd say Andres is an exception: He told me all about his chemo port before the end of our second full day).
But now, Ivette notices that they share more with each other. And she's right – every member of the group seems more open, quicker to laugh. Parents included.
It makes me wonder how many of the World Cup wish kids will keep in touch as they get better and grow older. I hope they all have the chance to gather in the future, and share memories of a summer that marked a new beginning for them.