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A wish that means the world

Posted Dec 8, 2017

Joshua Blanco had the trip of a lifetime.

The look on Joshua Blanco’s face was priceless as one by one Steelers players came over and shook hands, posed for pictures and signed autographs for the 14-year old.

He didn’t have to say much. You could just see the excitement on his face, the joy he was feeling.

Blanco, who is from Sterling Heights, Michigan, was visiting Steelers practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and will be at Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, as a guest of the team through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Blanco has juvenile dermatopolymyositis, a rare disease that also caused him to have juvenile arthritis. He went from a young boy who was playing football and enjoying life, to a teen who couldn’t do the things he loved most.

“He was sidelined when it happened,” said his mother Nickie Blanco, who said he is in remission now. “He was playing football. Out of my three boys, he was the one who was outside all of the time, playing, wanting to do stuff. All of a sudden he dropped 40 pounds in four months. The disease depletes the muscles in the body and that is why he has arthritis also.

“It was very humbling. He was sidelined for life. It took all he could to get up and go to school in the morning.”

Seeing the Steelers, though, that was just what he needed.  

“He loves the Steelers,” said his mother. “His dad has been watching games with him since he was two. For a while, for like two years after he was diagnosed, he was so dark. He didn’t want to be around people. He felt like his life was over. He didn’t think he could be able to do football again, or play with his friends. He would get winded going out and throwing the football. That really took him down.

“It means the world to him to be here. He is such a sweet, sweet kid.”