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“Best Day of My Life”
A Carson Wentz super fan finally meets his hero
By Jayne Jacova Feld

Lots of people can relate to Carson Wentz’s struggles with injuries and how hard the Eagles’ franchise quarterback has worked to overcome them. And then there’s diehard fan Giovanni Hamilton.

A cheerful 11-year-old who sports a dyed-green mohawk, Giovanni has had more than his share of physical challenges. Diagnosed with a rare genetic disease affecting his muscles and growth, he has endured 12 major surgeries throughout his young life. The latest, over the spring, involved pins being embedded into his jaw, which his mom Shannon Algarin had to turn twice daily for six weeks to lengthen the jaw. 

What got him through the painful ordeal was knowing he had something amazing to look forward to at the end. Thanks to Bianca’s Kids, a South Jersey non-profit wish-granting organization, he would be going to Eagles training camp and finally (hopefully) meet his hero Carson Wentz.

“It was a moment we had been hoping for so long,” says Algarin. “We talked about it every day during the jaw-lengthening process.”

Still, there were no guarantees. Over the past two years, well-intentioned plans to bring them together did not go exactly as planned — but the two did talk, and it was amazing, says Giovanni.

That happened on Christmas Day 2017. Amid family festivities, the boy from Lycoming County, Pa. received a surprise video conference call from Wentz and other members of the team, including Coach Doug Pederson and relief quarterback Nick Foles.

This was not just an epic holiday greeting. Following the call, the family was treated to a limo ride to Philly and tickets to the last regular season game of the championship season (The one they lost to the Cowboys). Giovanni met some of his favorite players, but not Wentz, who was sidelined due to his season-ending leg injury about a month earlier. 

“By then, everyone knew Giovanni was Carson’s biggest fan and they tried to get them to meet,” Algarin says.

But they just missed each other, apparently by an elevator ride, she says,

“Even though it was really, really awesome, I was still bummed,” admits Giovanni.

That might have been the end run of Giovanni’s Eagles dream had not Washington Township resident Debbie Savigliano, founder of Bianca’s Kids, stepped in.

A huge Eagles fan herself, Savigliano was 11 when her father’s untimely death following a car crash left her mother, herself and four siblings devastated. About a month later, it was a complete surprise when famed Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery showed up at the family’s South Philly door, thanks to arrangements made by family friends.

“This one moment changed my life,” she says. “Not only could I experience joy again and smile. Him making us feel like the most important people in the world inspired me to create Bianca’s Kids so many years later.”

The organization, named after her late niece Bianca Yodice, who was 21 when she was struck and killed by a car in 2010, grants a wide range of wishes for kids in need, mostly in South Jersey. The group has been bringing children and families to training camp since 2014.

Savigliano had seen a video of the phone call circulating on social media and felt compelled to reach out. “I wanted to make his dream happen,” she says.

As a guest of Bianca’s Kids, Giavanni and his family attended 2018 training camp. Having watched Super Bowl LII more than two dozen times, Giovanni was pumped to watch the team practice up close, he says. But because Wentz was injured (this time it was the back spasms), the star quarterback was called in for treatment immediately after the session ended, instead of hanging back with other players and meeting fans.

Once again, Giavanni faced mixed feelings. He was so inspired by the practice but disappointed to miss Wentz yet again, he says.

“Giavanni is such a sweet child, he would never complain,” says Savigliano. “But I needed to make it right for him.”

And so, just about a year later, the family was back at the NovaCare Complex in South Philly on a steamy late summer day. The first thing Giovanni noticed about Wentz was that he wasn’t wearing a leg brace anymore, which was thrilling.

“You could tell he was feeling good,” he says. “He was throwing really long passes and running around.”

At the end of the practice, as the rest of the team came over to meet fans, Wentz was still practicing. This made Giovanni a little nervous, but eventually even the quarterback called it quits and walked over.

This is a moment that luckily has been captured on video because Giovanni has a hard time describing it. As soon as their eyes met, the boy started crying.

“I was going to tell him that I just had surgery, and I stayed strong through it just like he stayed strong through his knee and back injury,” he says.

Only the words didn’t come out that way. All he could summon was “You’re my hero,” he recalls.

To that, Wentz responded, “I know buddy.”

Everyone who witnessed the emotional moment was chocked up and in tears, says Savigliano.

She was actually there with a camera crew intending to shoot video for a pilot TV show about Bianca’s Kids with the title “Miracle Mob.” Before she and her crew even left the parking lot, the video went viral. Posted on the Eagles Twitter account, it garnered 1.2 million views in the first five hours.

“More than a game,” was how Wentz describes the moment on his Instagram.

Giovanni’s version of events was just as to the point. A tweet that accompanied video of their encounter simply states: “Best Day of my Life.”

September 2019
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