NEW RICHMOND, Ohio (WCPO) — When River Blank walked into Gold Star Chili with his family Wednesday, the 10-year-old had no clue he was about to be given the trip of a lifetime.
River believed his family was invited to celebrate the Bengals' success. In reality, the Cincinnati-based restaurant and Pepsi had arranged a private event to surprise River with tickets to Super Bowl LVI.
Bengals mascot "Who Dey" popped in with a sign asking River to go to the big game with him. As soon as he read it, River responded with a quick "yeah."
"His 'yes' to going to the Super Bowl, his sweet demeanor, and the family's reaction — it’s pretty hard to put into words," said Jessica George, vice president of marketing for Gold Star. "He has this fighter spirit. He has loyalty to his team. He's a warrior. He's what it is all about."
The fourth-grader was born with infantile scoliosis, which is caused by an abnormal curve in his spine. River has undergone five major surgeries. His father said his biggest surgery is coming soon.
"It means everything for him to go and do this before that," Travis Blank said. "Making that little boy's world. To have this happen, it's a dream come true, I'm not going to lie."
For now, it's about savoring every moment and preparing for a game he'll never forget.
"He's overwhelmed," Travis Blank said. "He's a quiet boy, I know he's asking questions like, 'Are we doing this? Is it real?' He's over the moon."
His family said Blank received a Tee Higgins jersey to wear during Bengals games and the team has not lost since he got it. They hope he can continue to be the team's good luck charm in Los Angeles.
This story was originally reported by Jake Ryle on wcpo.com.