Super Bowl Sunday was never going to be an average day for Cole Fitzgerald, an Eagles fan in the Philadelphia area. He planned to park himself in front of a T.V. to hoot for his home team in the big game.
The 13-year-old found out on Monday that he gets to watch the game in a much more exciting setting: In person, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
An anonymous Twin Cities-area Vikings fan, who won two tickets in a charity raffle, decided to give them to someone who’d have more fun cheering on a favorite team after Philadelphia dashed Minnesota’s hope of a home field Super Bowl appearance. The Twin Cities man found a dedicated Eagles fan in Fitzgerald, a neuroblastoma cancer survivor who has also dealt with hearing loss — a side effect of chemotherapy — and a joint disorder from birth.
Thanks to Minnesota nonprofit Spare Key and other companies and groups, Fitzgerald and his father are getting a surprise, all-expenses-paid trip to Minneapolis for the Eagles’ big day. Fitzgerald was awe-struck Monday when he found out.
“Not many kids in this world have these opportunities,” said Fitzgerald, who lives in Washington Township in southern New Jersey.
Spare Key’s Executive Director Erich Mische called it a “cycle of generosity and kindness that kind of has rippled much further than anybody could have expected it to.”
The tickets started at Klein Bank, which donated them to Spare Key. The local Vikings fan won them on Jan. 19 — two days before the Vikings lost to the Eagles. But the fan, who Mische said wanted to remain anonymous, made up his mind: If the Vikings weren’t in the big game, he wanted the Super Bowl seats to go to a fan of either of the two final teams.
So the fan found Fitzgerald, and the community gathered around to help. Delta Air Lines pitched in round-trip airfare for the father and son. Country Inn and Suites near the Mall of America donated a hotel stay. The Timberwolves and Minnesota Wild provided tickets to each of their games.
Spare Key, Mische said, helps families similar to the Fitzgeralds, by giving families with sick or injured children grants to help with housing payments. The giving will continue after the game: Spare Key raised $43,000 in the raffle of the Super Bowl tickets.
The Eagles united the Fitzgerald family, and much like the game, helping Cole was a team effort, his father Bill Fitzgerald said.
Cole Fitzgerald has been featured in Philadelphia news stories for reaching for his goals and not letting his past illness hold him back. He dreams of being on an NFL team’s staff, and is already a team manager on his junior high school’s football team. He’s an avid sports fan, and also cheers for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Flyers.
He and his father arrive in the Twin Cities Friday to a jam-packed schedule: an airport greeting, a ride in a Tesla, a Super Bowl pregame party and then the big game itself. Altogether, Mische said, the trip is probably a $20,000 to $25,000 experience.
Cole has long wished for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, his father said, adding that his son wishes the Vikings better luck next year.
Bill Fitzgerald said it’s moving to know there are great people at home and “in other communities as well that are willing to share even when their own hearts have been broken.”