Twice a day for six weeks this spring, Shannon Algarin had to turn the pins embedded into her 11-year-old son’s jaw as part of an ongoing process to lengthen it.
“It was awful,” she said. “Every time, it broke my heart. It shattered it.”
As she turned the pins, Algarin and her son, Giovanni Hamilton, would daydream about the chance that maybe one day, after it was all over, Giovanni would get to meet his hero, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
On Friday at Eagles training camp, Giovanni’s dream came true — and it was all captured in an emotional video shared by the Eagles.
“It was what got us through, just the possibility of today,” Algarin said of meeting Wentz. “When the moment actually happened, it was like, ‘Wow. This is worth everything we’ve gone through this year.’”
Giovanni suffers from Schwartz Jampel syndrome, a rare genetic disorder his mom describes as “like having muscular dystrophy and dwarfism combined.” He’s had 12 surgeries in his 11 years of life, most recently to lengthen his jaw, which does not grow on its own.
But the ongoing surgeries have never dampened Giovanni’s indomitable spirit or his love for the Eagles. He’s often seen in an Eagles jersey, sporting a dyed-green mohawk.
On Christmas Eve 2017, Giovanni — whose family lives in Muncy, Lycoming County — received a surprise video conference call from members of the Eagles, including Wentz. Shortly thereafter, he got a limo ride and a chance to watch a game and meet some of the players at Lincoln Financial Field, but Wentz was not among them.
When the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, Giovanni was watching. And he’s rewatched the game at least 25 times, his mom said.
Through fundraising, Giovanni and his family were able to raise enough money to come to Philadelphia for the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade, where fans lifted Giovanni out of his wheelchair to help him cheer on the team.
But for Giovanni, nothing compares to meeting his hero on Friday. Bianca’s Kids, a foundation that helps grant the wishes of children in hard times, arranged for him to attend training camp with his mom, brother, and sister.
“The whole goal was to meet Carson, but it was never guaranteed,” Algarin said. “When it happened, it was perfect. It was magic. It was Christmas in July.”
But when the moment came, all Giovanni could say through his tears was: “You’re my hero.”
His mom helped to fill in the rest.
“Carson looked at me and said, ‘I cannot even imagine,’” Algarin recalled. “He is such an amazing person. So humble, so kind.”
For Algarin, the most moving moment was when her son opened his arms, signaling that he wanted a hug from Wentz.
“I wasn’t sure if Carson would embrace him or not, but he did without hesitation,” she said. “My heart is so full.”