A New Jersey teen who is battling a brain tumor was recently surprised with a dream of a lifetime to see his favorite college basketball team play against their rivals in an upcoming game.
For years, Antonio Sellers has been a major Duke University fan and dreamed of being in the crowd when the Blue Devils compete against their rivals, the University of North Carolina Tarheels, in a home game match-up, NJ.com reported.
Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, the illness hasn’t stopped Antonio, 16, from hoping to attend the big game one day — and now that lifelong dream is becoming a reality.
On Thursday, representatives from New Jersey’s Make-A-Wish Foundation surprised Antonio at his Jersey City high school to reveal that he would officially be in attendance on March 7 as the Blue Devils play the Tarheels at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“This, it’s all I wanted,” he said after the surprise, according to NJ.com. “[I’m] crying. It’s crazy.”
The sweet surprise was captured in a Facebook live video by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who not only announced the big news to the teen in front of all his classmates at Hudson Catholic Regional High School but also had a special video — featuring two professional athletes who are Duke alumni — created for him.
In the clip, New York Knicks basketball player RJ Barrett invited Antonio to one of their practices, while New York Giants football player Daniel Jones and Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski sent well wishes to the teen.
Krzyzewski also said he was looking forward to meeting Antonio when he comes to the game and said he’s a “terrific guy.”
To keep the surprise hidden from Antonio, his mom Felicia Sellers told her son that he had to go to school and attend an assembly — something the teen admitted he was unenthusiastic about, according to NJ.com.
“My mom told me I gotta do something [at school],” Antonio, who played for his school’s varsity basketball team before the diagnosis, recalled to the outlet. “So I was like, ‘Ahh.’ “
But when he arrived in Hudson Catholic’s gym, he was met by warm applause from his teachers, classmates and family.
Several prominent alumni from the school, including CBS and YES Network analyst Jim Spanarkel and former NBA player Mike O’Koren — both of whom played at either Duke or UNC — were also there to greet the teen, NJ.com reported.
It was then that Antonio’s lifelong wish to attend the big game was officially granted by Make-A-Wish and Jersey Mike’s, leaving many in the room in tears from the emotional moment, WABC reported.
“With a little help from some special guests and our friends at Hudson Catholic Regional High School, we’re surprising 16-year-old Antonio with some exciting news! 🏀 💙 #DukeBasketball” Make-A-Wish wrote on Facebook beside the live stream.
According to Make-A-Wish representatives, they only learned of Antonio’s wish a few weeks ago. Still, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey Thomas Weatherall told NJ.com that they were able to pull off the surprise.
“Only a short couple of weeks ago, we learned Antonio’s wish. We went straight to work making that happen,” Weatherall said, according to the outlet. “This family, this wonderful story [has] touched my heart.”
The wish also marked the start of Jersey Mike’s 10th annual Month of Giving in March, where the sandwich company is set to join forces with 200 local charities, their website states.
During that time, Jersey Mike’s will also help grant 40 wishes to children who are currently battling severe illnesses, WABC reported.
“Together we create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses and this wish is the perfect example of that,” Make-A-Wish’s Weatherall said, according to WABC.
Antonio’s wish comes after a particularly difficult year for the teen and his family.
What started off as severe headaches last March turned into doctors finding a golf ball-sized brain tumor that required multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, NJ.com reported.
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The severity of his treatments at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick caused Antonio to suffer speech and hearing impairment, as well as become wheelchair-bound. The teen also had to shave off his dreadlocks for treatment, according to NJ.com.
Because of all her son has endured recently, Antonio’s mother said this surprise was especially meaningful. “We’ve been through so much. This journey has shown me truly how tough he is,” she told NJ.com, adding that the assembly “was a moment Antonio definitely needed.”
“This is something Antonio always wanted,” she added, according to WABC. “Although he has to go to Duke and visit this way I believe he’s going to be visiting another way down the road. Our journey, we are just taking a different path right now.”