Tiago Cusano had never seen snow. But he had seen bobsledding.
Recovering from radiation treatments, Tiago became fascinated with bobsledding – particularly the speed -- as he watched the 2018 Winter Olympics on TV at his Miami Springs, Florida, home.
“I want to ride one of those one day,” Tiago said.
So when it came time for the 8-year-old to make his wish, he told Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida he wanted to go down an icy track.
With assistance from Make-A-Wish® Northeast New York, Tiago and his family got to do just that and much more, as they were introduced to the miracle of winter in the home of miracles: Lake Placid, New York.
With brand-new cold-weather gear, Tiago and his family were greeted in mid-February like rock stars/royalty the moment they stepped foot in the idyllic Olympic village nestled in the Adirondacks.
Tiago met with Olympians past and present. The impressive roster included ski medalist and Make-A-Wish Northeast New York board member Andrew Weibrecht, whose family owns the famed Mirror Lake Inn, where the Cusanos stayed.
Olympic bobsledders surrounded Tiago much of his wish, including medalists Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs, showing genuine interest in the family. The youth watched World Cup bobsled and skeleton races up close at Mt. Van Hoevenberg (“scary,” he said), and appeared on international TV, and was the subject of his own news conference.
“So here we are,” dad Kevin told the media, “and we are thankful to Make-A-Wish. … It’s above and beyond what we expected.”
The mayor of Lake Placid, Craig H. Randall, appeared overjoyed to meet Tiago. “I know you,” Randall told him. After hours in the village, it seemed everyone knew Tiago.
The youth, diagnosed with a brain tumor, also went to the top of the Olympic ski jump. And toured Herb Brooks Arena. And learned to snowboard and luge. There was more.
Tiago learned how to make a snowball – and throw one. He and his 12-year-old sister, Gianna, got into snowball fights with each other, and anyone willing to throw one back at them. More than a few Olympians were game.
A kid from Florida who had never seen snow grabbed a fistful of Upstate New York winter by his mittens.
“I like cold more than hot,” he said.
Of course, there was his bobsled run. The whole family got to ride. It was fast, fun.
Tiago smiled afterward and gave high-fives.
“I wish I could do it again tomorrow,” he said that night before bed.
Tiago later got named an official member of the U.S. Bobsled team, ID card and all.
“I can’t begin to tell you how powerful this experience has been,” Kevin Cusano said.
While New Yorkers often flee to Florida in winter, the Cusanos were sad to say goodbye to an Upstate February.
“We’ve fallen in love with Lake Placid,” mom Elena said.
The feeling was more than mutual.