Antonio was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at just four years old – the disease carried by his mother and skipping generations. Knowing the muscular degeneration that was to increase over his life, his parents worried about Antonio’s ability to lead a normal childhood.
In the past, those diagnosed would rarely live past twenty, but thanks to improvement and research over the years children with this illness often live much longer and fuller lives. Antonio’s parents were determined to take full advantage of not only treatments but opportunities to give Antonio a sense of normalcy. Despite often being quiet, Antonio has a number of friends. He flourishes in muscular dystrophy camp where he can share his passions with other kids his age within similar circumstances. Shy under certain circumstances simply out of nerves, Antonio’s quiet demeanor often hides his true loves and interests. “He’s a quiet kid,” one of the volunteers explained, “but he has a huge smile.” One of the passions that gives him a respite from his illness is basketball.
Antonio stopped walking at just twelve years old, now bound to a wheelchair and requiring constant care. He’s undergone a number of heel surgeries and lung treatments to aid in his quality of life and help the muscular degeneration as he ages. With all of the treatments he was going through, Antonio’s doctor recommended Make-A-Wish to his parents. A wish would aid him through not only his treatments but the years to come while Antonio still has much of the function as he does, the hospital explained. Antonio had heard of Make-A-Wish before from his other friends at camp or at the hospital, but had never shown personal interest in the experience. At seventeen years old and the recommendation of his doctor in mind, the opportunity seemed all of a sudden much more appealing for both Antonio and his parents. He knew he would want a sports wish, something to give him an opportunity to not only meet his heroes but see a game unfold before him in real time. The more he thought about his sports wish, the more he knew it all came back to his love of basketball. When it came down to the final decision, Antonio knew who he wanted to meet: Paul George, NBA basketball player for the Indiana Pacers.
Everyone was nervous for the upcoming meeting. His parents for the detail of the experience, and Antonio was overcome with his nerve at not only a new experience - but one that included someone he so admired! Neither of them had anything to worry about when it came time for his wish. Every detail was taken care of. The family went in that morning expecting a quick meeting and the opportunity to watch his game. What they got instead was a 1 on 1 meeting with Paul George and a chance to meet the whole team. They arrived celebrity style at the stadium, and Antonio was immediately given a huge bag of Pacer’s gear. The coach was the first to greet them, teasing and joking with Antonio while the rest of the guys filed out to say hello. Antonio was simply introduced as “a friend from Make-A-Wish” to the team, all gathering around for greetings and pictures. After watching the whole team practice, Antonio and Paul took some time to shoot hoops on the court. Even though Antonio’s love of basketball was physically limited by his muscular dystrophy, it didn’t stop him from bringing his passion to the court. With a perfect pass from Antonio, Paul George dunked the ball into the net, bringing him right into the action of the game. Antonio may not have been able to play himself, but he was able to still experience the action with his favorite player.
The team did everything they could to accommodate Antonio and make his experience the very best possible and he certainly did not forget it. “There’s a game coming up this Saturday,” his Dad explained, “Antonio can’t wait and wants to make a sign just for Paul George.” There’s an air of happiness about Antonio after his experience that’s clear to everyone around him these days. More things just seem possible to him now after his experience, his parents say. He was treated like a rock star everywhere he went that day on the court and he’s carried that feeling of joy with him since.