With his new "tricked out" wheelchair, Vista Murrieta High School senior Daniel Gibbs will be even quicker getting around campus.
"He can move across this campus faster than any other human," said Principal Darren Daniel on Tuesday as the well-liked student was greeted by his wish granter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "I am willing to bet there's not a whole lot of students who don't know who Daniel is. He has a seat anywhere he goes."
Students from groups such as ROTC, Link Crew, ASB, Drumline, Cheer and Football lined up as an unsuspecting Daniel was wheeled out of the office. His parents and siblings walked by his side amidst cheers from his classmates as the first part of the surprise was unveiled: a waiting limousine.
Daniel, 17, suffers from multiple conditions including Spina bifida, hydrocephalus and Arnold Chiari malformation, according to his mother, Karen Gibbs. He has been in a wheelchair all of his young life, and underwent 27 surgeries before he was 7, she said. It was recently discovered that he also suffers from restrictive lung disease, she said.
"He was supposed to have his 28th surgery two weeks ago, but they found this. He only has 26 percent of his lung capacity right now."
Despite his disabilities, Daniel is a trooper and is well-liked on campus. He is a member of ROTC and can be found at most football games.
It did not take long for word to spread that his wish would be granted Tuesday.
On Monday, Vista Murrieta School Nurse Lucie McCarthy was notified that a wish granter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation planned to escort him from school the next day to Angels Stadium.
Once at Angels Stadium, Daniel received a "tricked out" wheelchair courtesy of Monster Energy Drinks. It was one of his wishes, his mother explained. He then attended batting practice for the Angels before watching his favorite team play.
"They ask for three wishes," Karen said. "His first wish was to meet Lauren Alaina (a former 'American Idol' contestant). His second was to be a cop in Murrieta for a day. His third was a 'tricked out' wheelchair."
Karen confided that although Daniel had been approached several times to make a wish, it was not until now that they agreed to it.
"I was afraid to have him make a wish because I thought something catastrophic would happen," Karen said. "I am a worry wart. But is was unfair to him. Up until the age of 7 he wouldn't talk. So he needed to make this wish. This is him talking."
Daniel's special education aide, Julia Ahonen, could not fight back tears of joy.
"I have been in tears since I found out, and then having to keep it a secret..." Ahonen said. "I have known for one day; his mom only knew for one day and she called me."
She said Daniel was definitely deserving.
"He is always happy. He is the happiest kid," Ahonen said.
According to volunteer wish granter Dina Duran, she would see Daniel and his family off to the game, and from there she did not know if the Angels had anything special planned.
"He had no clue about any of this," Duran said. "His first words when he saw the wheelchair were 'are you serious?'"
As Daniel was whisked off on his adventure, he placed his hand outside the limousine window and waved at his classmates.
"This is his campus. He's happy to be a part of it," Principal Daniel said. "He is the pulse of our campus. It is a unique dynamic to see a kid with a lifetime of disability but yet he uses that in a way to empower other people."