Make-A-Wish kids and their families got a private tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday morning. A team of 16 Make-A-Wish kids and their families from throughout the US and Canada traveled to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Hosted by Make-A-Wish Georgia, they will be in attendance at Super Bowl LIII . Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Make-A-Wish Georgia hosts 16 youth for the Super Bowl

Whether the Patriots or the Rams walk off the field with the Super Bowl 53 championship, Adam Aref is a winner.

Make-A-Wish Georgia is hosting Aref and 15 other youth who will see their dreams come true.

»»PHOTOS: See more of the kids and athletes who took part in the Make-A-Wish event

Aref, 19, who lives in Rhode Island, is a huge Patriots fan and his face lights up at the mere mention of quarterback Tom Brady.

“It’s a win even if they don’t win,” he said philosophically as he sat with his mother, Maria Kamel at Dave & Buster’s before a night of games.

“He plays really well and has a winning attitude,” said Aref, who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.

“Even if they don’t win, it’s nice that they made it.”

The youth, who range in age from 11 to 19, come from 11 states and Canada and will participate in a football-fueled weekend that will include a private tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a visit to the Super Bowl Experience and Georgia Aquarium and, topping it off, the big game with a parent.

Make-A-Wish kids and their families got a private tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium . The youth will go to Super Bowl LIII on Sunday. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wish kids, as they’re called, have been going to the Super Bowl since 1982 when the NFL granted the wish of John Paul Serna, a 12-year-old youth from Arizona who attended Super Bowl XVI. Since then, every Super Bowl for the past 38 years has been attended by at least one wish kid, totaling more than 200 Super Bowl wishes over nearly four decades.

Tim Earley, CEO of Make-A-Wish Georgia, said the usual number is 12.

Going to the Super Bowl is one of the most popular wish in terms of travel. There were no Georgia youth this year.

In 2018, said Earley, the Georgia nonprofit granted 353 wishes for Georgia youth. This year, they hope to reach at least 400 and “that’s still not enough.”

The organization grants wishes to youth who are critically ill.

There are four wish types: I wish to go, I wish to meet, I wish to have and I wish to be.

“The magic ingredient is that people come together,” he said.

For Joseph “Gunter” Garvin, the Super Bowl means he can cross one item off a bucket list that includes seeing the Northern Lights, going big elk hunting and swimming with the sharks.

Eder Barrios (from left) and his children, German, Yeimi, Joshua, and Bryan sit in the Patriots locker room in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Bryan, 19, has lymphoblastic lymphoma. His favorite is the Rams.. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The 18-year-old from Austin, Ark. came to Atlanta with his parents and sister.

An avid football and Patriots fan, Garvin played the sport for years until he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, during a routine physical.

Angelo DiCorpo, age 16, who has autonomic dysreflexia, is joined on a tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with former NFL player Chris Draft. Make-A-Wish kids and their families got a private tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday morning. . Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Football was a part of my life for so long,” said Garvin, who still works with the team, but can’t play.

“This is big,” said Garvin. “I’m still trying to take it all in. It’s really just neat.”

He plans to take his father, Clay Garvin to the game.

And Clay Garvin is OK with that.

“Anything we can do to make a memory, I’m all for it.”

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