Tycen Restad loves football and has for most of his life. He can be found watching games and giving insight on the players to those around him. Tycen’s biggest wish came true as he signed a player's contract with the famous Dallas Cowboys.
"It was a great opportunity and a real cool thing that Make-A-Wish did to help us fulfill his dream,” Tycen’s father, Aaron Restad, said.
“They hooked us up,” Tycen added.
North Dakota Make-A-Wish had a record year in 2019, granting 51 wishes or about one wish a week on average. The most common wishes are related to Disney, traveling to another place such as Hawaii, wishing to be someone like a superhero or dinosaur tamer, or to meet someone like Tycen’s wish to meet the Dallas Cowboys.
“On average the cash cost of a wish is about $7,500 and then there is an additional $5,200 that’s in-kind donations of goods and services that we receive,” Tori Schrantz, ND Make-A-Wish Communications and Development Manager, shared.
The family, including Tycen’s mother, Kari Krom, and little sister Alexa, traveled the day after Christmas to Dallas, Texas, where the North Texas chapter of Make-A-Wish greeted and welcomed them. Schrantz explained that the Make-A-Wish organizations throughout the country work together like this when a wish involves travel.
“They're able to help us plan things. They often have better connections so, in this case, that chapter had really good connections with the Cowboys so they were able to then make sure that [the Restads] got the best experience so we work hand in hand with our sister chapters to make those kind of wishes possible,” Schrantz said.
Tycen and his family not only were able to attend the Cowboys versus Washington Redskins game on December 29, 2019, but they also toured the AT&T Stadium and the Ford Center at The Star, the practice field for the Cowboys in Frisco, Texas. Meeting the team was no hardship for Tycen as he met quarterback Dak Prescott, tight end Jason Witten, running back Ezekiel Elliot, and linebacker Sean Lee - spending 15 to 20 minutes with each. The family also met the former head coach, Jason Garrett, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, interacting with them for 20 to 30 minutes.
“It was almost surreal. Tycen signed a one-day contract and got his own Dallas Cowboys jersey. He got a dollar signed by Jerry Jones,” Aaron shared.
It wasn’t just that but also gloves from Jason Witten. The VIP treatment didn’t stop with just the practice day. Tycen and his family were chauffeured by limo and by the Dallas Cowboys team bus to the stadiums. They were even able to enjoy some cheeseburgers with the players following practice.
Prior to the start of the game against the Redskins, Tycen and his family spent some time on field before the game started. Being able to see the NFL at such an intimate level and his favorite team warm up before facing off against their long-time rivals is one experience Tycen will never forget.
Tycen was diagnosed in October of 2017 with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The condition is a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness due to the alterations of a protein called dystrophin that helps keep muscle cells intact. There is currently no cure for Duchennes; there is hope – perhaps now more then ever before. For Tycen, maintaining his muscles as they are is important. Keeping up his spirits is just as important as “we have got to keep these kids, kids, for as long as we can”.
Tycen is currently in 2nd grade at the Langdon Area Elementary School. Some of Tycen’s favorite things are watching the Dallas Cowboys, NDSU Bison football, playing his Xbox, being around family and friends, race cars and playing with his sister.
The family travels to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minn., every 3-6 months. Aaron describes Tycen as a really easy-going kid and to be included in the normalcy of life means a lot.
“We are honored to have been a part of Tycen’s journey. It’s so important to us to be able to provide these kids with an experience that helps them forget their illness for a little bit - where they are able to get a little bit of their childhood back that these critical illnesses sometimes take away from them,” Schrantz said.
During their time at the stadium, Tycen and his family saw many famous and familiar faces. The interaction was not limited to players and upper management. Tycen shared that the stadium was well-looked over including the infamous Dallas Cowboys cheerleader locker room. The interaction with the Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, was especially memorable for the family.
“He was just walking down the hallway,” Kari said.
“It was just amazing how Mr. Jerry Jones came up. He was one of the first people to see us. He’s got this portrayal of this no-nonsense kind of guy. 'It’s me, and I’m all about the power’ and this and that. But it’s such a big family down there. The family atmosphere, I mean, everybody was in great spirits and more than accommodating on everything,” Aaron added.
Being embraced by the Cowboys organization made the whole family feel like they were part of the team while they were there. They also enjoyed and celebrated the Cowboys win from their seats in the end zone. Tycen explained how even though it was a win, it was not a celebration like normal as the team did not make the playoffs.
For now, the family is enjoying being home again and processing the trip of a lifetime for Tycen. Even though the Cowboys 2019 season is over, that doesn’t mean that Tycen isn’t already looking forward to the 2020 season. Aaron and Kari both could not express just how much this meant to them and their family.
“I don’t know if a thank you would be enough. I don’t know what you could say that would be more. We are so grateful that these two organizations can do this and continue doing this,” Aaron said. “To make a great thing out of a not so great situation and just let people be normal families, normal kids...it means a lot.”
The family wants to thank the Dallas Cowboys and the Make-A-Wish Foundation for giving them the opportunity. They encourage one and all to consider donating to Make-A-Wish to help another child have their wish granted.
“Make-A-Wish is one of the true, good causes in the world. It’s a great place to donate to and support,” Aaron said.
Donations can be made online at the northdakota.wish.org or sent at any time to the North Dakota Make-A-Wish location in Fargo at 4143 26th Avenue South Suite 104, Fargo, ND 58104.