On Sunday, 18-year-old Mustapha Khawaja will leave his La Crescenta home in a limousine headed for the airport and, ultimately, Brazil and the World Cup games. Once there, he will watch two soccer matches and sight see with his family.
His one-week, all expenses paid trip was a wish granted to the lifelong soccer fan by Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles, part of the global foundation that has, since 1980, granted wishes of children and youth who face life-threatening medical conditions.
The foundation estimates that one child's wish becomes a reality every 38 minutes.
For Khawaja, Brazil is a world away from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where the teen has gone for chemotherapy treatments for leukemia since August, but Khawaja is looking forward to a change of scenery.
"I've played soccer most of my life, since first-grade. I was a goal keeper in high school," says the teen who grew up in Saudi Arabia and moved to the U.S. in August to be nearer to mom Brenda Gant and attend Florida's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Khawaja had barely unpacked when he received the news that he had leukemia and needed to start chemotherapy right away. He moved in with his grandparents, Mary and Daryal Gant, has kept up with treatment and is currently in remission.
What's he looking forward to most about his upcoming trip?
"Just going there," he said with a smile. "I've never been to South America, so that's pretty cool."