WASHINGTON TWP. - A local boy has been surprised with two Super Bowl tickets, thanks to a Minnesota Vikings fan who's both broken-hearted and big-hearted.
Cole Fitzgerald, a 13-year-old cancer survivor, received the tickets with a note from the anonymous donor that ended with a Bible verse, instead of a signature.
The Minnesota fan, noting he's seen the Vikings fall just short of the Super Bowl six times since 1977, said he wanted the tickets to go to someone who'd enjoy seeing the Philadelphia Eagles in the title game.
"It's hard being a fan of a team that is almost always good enough to be in the playoffs, but then ultimately breaks your heart when it really matters at the end," the man told Cole, an eighth-grader at Bunker Hill Middle School.
"I'm telling you this not to complain, but to encourage you to embrace this experience and soak up and enjoy every minute of it," he continued.
That shouldn't be hard for Cole, who will attend the game with his father, Bill Fitzgerald.
"Cole has been a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles since he was little so it is a dream come true for him as well as my husband," said the boy's mother, Keren Fitzgerald.
She noted business donors are providing transportation, lodging and entertainment for Cole and his father, with more surprises waiting for the boy in Minneapolis.
"The Minnesota community gathered around to help," she said, describing the support as "nothing short of phenomenal."
Cole expressed gratitude and sympathy as he received the tickets, according to a report by CBS 3, which recorded the surprise presentation.
"I want to thank the fan," he said. "Sorry for the season. Good luck next year."
The Vikings fan won the tickets through a raffle held by Spare Key, a St. Paul nonprofit. Super Bowl LII is being played Sunday in Minneapolis.
"When I won the tickets I told my wife and kids (after the yelling and the screaming and the jumping up and down in excitement) that I would only go to the Super Bowl if the Vikes were in it," the man wrote.
But as the Eagles piled up points in a 38-7 drubbing of the Vikings — "well, they just laid an egg in this one game" — the man turned off his TV and began searching the Internet for someone to receive his tickets.
He ruled out fans of the New England Patriots, noting that group's been "a bit spoiled during the past decade."
The man found online articles about Cole, who'd not been expected to survive childbirth and who beat neuroblastoma as a toddler.
One report told how Cole, eager to be involved in football despite physical challenges, had served as an honorary equipment manager at an Eagles home game in November. The boy also is equipment manager for Washington Township Youth Football League.
"It was all so very cool, and I realized it was destiny, just not my destiny," the donor said. "You were the one meant to get these tickets all along.”
He ended by saying, "I hope you guys enjoy this weekend and the game and … for this one game ... Go Eagles!"
The tickets were delivered to Cole's home by a staffer for Spare Key, which serves families with injured or critically ill children. The nonprofit got the tickets as a gift from a local bank, executive director Erich Mische said Tuesday.
Spare Key is receiving more public awareness thanks to media coverage of the donor's generosity, said Mische, who hopes that will translate to increased financial support.
Keren Fitzgerald said her family has started a campaign to help the nonprofit.
"Our friends and family have been donating in Cole's name to express their appreciation," she said.
"It's always good to get attention," said Mische.
Then again, Mische's had to wear Eagles garb all week after losing a bet over the NFC Championship game with Dan Rhoton, his counterpart at a South Jersey nonprofit, Hopeworks 'N Camden.
"I can assure you my fellow Minnesotans are none too pleased," he said.
How to help: Online donations at Sparekey.org benefit a nonprofit that helps families with critically ill or seriously injured children.
Jim Walsh: @jwalsh_cp; 856-486-2646; email@example.com
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The Eagles beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship game, advancing to the Super Bowl. SJ fans are gearing up. Celeste E. Whittaker/Staff Photographer