MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Matthew Valiante got to live out a dream Friday at Zoo Miami.
The 13-year-old got the chance to play with some very big cats, get up close and personal with African elephants, and touched a tongue that never ends while feeding the giraffes.
Matthew with his entire family in tow was there for a once in a lifetime experience through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, making his dream a reality, a dream for a teen who’s gone through so much.
“Every three months a blood draw, every year a bone marrow biopsy, if we get any kind of fever we have to immediately go to the ER, he can’t fight infection the way we can,” said his mother Deana Valiante.
Matthew was diagnosed at two years old with Schwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder that his mother says essentially means he has bone marrow failure.
“It affects his pancreas, his bones, and his blood,” she said.
Matthew, who lives in New Jersey, became increasingly interested in the big cats as he fought his blood disorder.
On Friday, he was humble, a kid of few words, who didn’t get why he deserved all the attention.
“He doesn’t take anything for granted, he says why, why do I get this, well everything you go through,” said his mother.
It wasn’t just a wish granted, talk to his family and everyone there, it was magic, if just for a moment.
“Seeing him do that it was remarkable,” said Matthew’s father Jeffrey.
“They’ve got down days, but when a kid looks at a giraffe or he looks at a cheetah and if only for a few moments he forgets about everything else,” said Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill.
In the end, while hanging with the cheetah’s Matthew still had little to say about it all, but his mother told CBS4 News to trust her that’s he was taking it all in.
“Make memories, you have to keep the memories coming,” she said.
“This was a pretty good one right,” asked CBS4’s Rielle Creighton.
“Very good,” Deana replied with a laugh. “Very good.”
By Rielle Creighton