Disney World has long been the destination of successful athletes who want to celebrate winning a major championship.
But, for 5-year-old Ciara Cooke – who suffers from Type 1 diabetes and epilepsy – it is the dream of a lifetime.
Monday, Ciara was surprised by a group of special friends – including USC football player A.J. Cann and other members of Gamecock athletics – with a pep rally for her before she left for Disney World on Tuesday.
Cann, a left offensive guard for the Gamecocks, was joined by USC kicker Elliott Fry and defensive end Devin Washington, along with USC cheerleaders and volleyball players.
Cann, who is 6 foot 4 and weighs 311 pounds, lifted Ciara effortlessly after she walked through a human tunnel the athletes made for her when she walked into the volleyball competition facility.
“For me to be her favorite player and for her to want to talk to me every day, and be around me every day, it’s a blessing,” Cann said. “Me making her day in the condition she is in, it’s a blessing; it’s amazing.”
Ciara was diagnosed with diabetes at age 2 and, a short time later, experienced her first seizure, which led to the epilepsy diagnosis. Her mother, Helen Cooke, said Ciara has had four seizures since being diagnosed and has been hospitalized six times for her illnesses.