DBAYEH, Lebanon: The Lebanese national anthem played, confetti fell and acrobats juggled and flipped. Fifteen-year-old Charles Moukarzel’s dream was coming true and for a few minutes at a cafe in Le Mall, Moukarzel, his family and a large group of well-wishers were intensely happy.
There was clapping and cheering, laughter and blushing faces. Moukarzel’s mother and father wiped away tears and smiles broke across their faces. Moukarzel is going on a free trip to Barcelona to watch his favorite team and favorite player Lionel Messi.
Moukarzel is a passionate Barcelona fan: He has memorized Barcelona’s games and Messi’s goals. Moukarzel is also afflicted with a chronic, degenerative disease that has him wheelchair bound and robbed of his normal speech. His prognosis is grim.
A group that helps children with critical illnesses, Tamanna, asked Moukarzel last month what he wanted to do above anything else. He said he wanted to see Messi play.
“Is there anything else?” they asked. “Messi,” he repeated. Just Messi.
His family was overwhelmed at the surprise unveiling Thursday at Le Mall. Moukarzel’s disease has made him slow to outwardly react, but those who knew him said he was thrilled.
“I can imagine inside he must be bubbling like crazy,” said Soraya Barbir, director of Tamanna, who worked with the Moukarzel family to arrange the dream trip.
Every time Barbir spoke to Moukarzel he said the same thing.
“He kept on going back to Messi, Messi, Messi,” she said.
And Messi he will get. Next month Moukarzel will depart for Spain with his family to watch Barcelona play and possibly meet the football star. Spanish Ambassador Milagros Hernando came to the unveiling and is helping expedite the visas for the trip scheduled for April 21.
The surprise unveiling was also planned to coincide with Mother’s Day, because of the strength Moukarzel’s mother, Maggie, showed in helping him deal with his terminal illness.
Friends described Maggie as always positive and strong as she helped her family through very difficult times.
“Charlie has the most amazing mother who has been sacrificing everything,” Barbir said.
When Maggie sat down for lunch Thursday, before the surprise was unveiled, she asked if anything could be done so that her son could go watch the football giants.
Minutes later, football players started juggling in front of their cafe table and tears filled Maggie’s eyes as she realized what was happening.
The band played, a television screen lowered from the ceiling, the Spanish ambassador presented him with an oversized Barcelona ticket and Moukarzel realized that her wish had been granted.
Tamanna has helped over 1,000 children with serious illnesses realize their dreams, averaging three per week. Le Mall worked with Tamanna to help Moukarzel’s dream come true, providing the elaborate unveiling.
“It was a total surprise,” said Zeina Sultani from Le Mall.
“I think he is overwhelmed.”