Fourteen-year-old Aldahir Solis from Panama is battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, and his wish was to meet players from his favorite team, the Chargers, and watch a game live. This past weekend, the Chargers made it happen when Aldahir visited the team's headquarters Friday and attended the Week 15 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The Chargers and Make-A-Wish flew Aldahir and his parents in from Panama Thursday night. The young's man first visit to the United States began with his signing a one-day contract alongside Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and executive VP of football administration/player finance Ed McGuire.
Aldahir, who speaks little English, answered "tight end" in Spanish when Telesco asked what position he would like to play. Telesco joked that he would "have to let Hunter Henry know that."
"That's alright," Telesco continued, "because we play with more than one tight end usually."
Team officials then led Aldahir on a tour of the facility, first stopping at the dining room followed by the weight room. He was amused to learn that seniority determines which Chargers player controls the music and that running back Austin Ekeler is the strongest player, pound-for-pound, on the team.
When the tour reached the offensive meeting room, Aldahir was shown his favorite player, Keenan Allen's, chair, and the young man excitedly sat and posed for a picture.
In the equipment room, Aldahir tried on a helmet and gloves, the latter of which he got to keep. When he saw the royal blue uniforms the Bolts would be wearing Sunday, he remarked it was his favorite color.
Upon reaching the locker room, Aldahir was shown to a locker with a nameplate bearing his name. He said, "no way," after being told it was his locker for the day and that he was entitled to all the goodies inside.
Aldahir then immediately went over to Allen's locker, taking his time to absorb the moment. He took deep breaths as he walked around the locker room, checking out the lockers, saying softly, "This is incredible."
Aldahir Solis, a 14-year-old from Panama, made his first trip to the U.S. to have his Make-A-Wish fulfilled by the Los Angeles Chargers. Aldahir visited Hoag Performance Center and signed a one-day contract with the team, toured the Chargers facilities, met the players and was surprised by his favorite player Keenan Allen with tickets to the Vikings game.
When practice ended, Bolts players said hello to Aldahir, shaking his hand, posing for pictures and signing autographs. When it was Allen's turn, he made Aldahir smile broadly, surprising the young man with tickets to the Chargers-Vikings game. Aldahir later described meeting his idol as "incredible, incredible, exciting truly."
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn then stopped by to give Aldahir a big hug and take some photos.
"It's really an honor that (Aldahir) wished to be here and hang out with us and allow us to be in (his) presence," Lynn said, "because what he's going through right now is a lot tougher than what we're going through…It puts things into perspective, and we're just happy we could spend some time with him and put a smile on his face."
Linebacker Drue Tranquill was another Charger who was touched by Aldahir's visit, having grown up watching Make-A-Wish segments on ESPN.
"When I watched it as a kid," Tranquill said, "I'm like, 'That would be really cool to meet those guys.' (Now), we are those guys. It's full circle, definitely, and I'm glad we could make that kid's day and have him be part of our program Sunday."
Finally, Aldahir got to walk onto the practice field and step in front of the camera for an exclusive interview about his experience with the Bolts.
As Aldahir and his parents were heading out, there was one final surprise, but it wasn't planned. Wide receiver Mike Williams happened to be picking up mail from the front desk and greeted Aldahir as the two crossed paths.
"I thank God and (the Chargers) too, because I've been able to achieve one of my dreams," Aldahir said of the experience. "One day, sometime in the future, I hope to be able to return and play for your team."