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Make-A-Wish helps dreams come true with Super Bowl trip

MINNEAPOLIS — Xander Martinez's dream of going to the Super Bowl is coming true this weekend thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Now, it's up to the Philadelphia Eagles to do their part.

"I really want them to win," said Xander, 13, of Winter Haven, Fla. "I'm thinking 26-15. I like Nick Foles, the quarterback, but I really like running back Jay Ajayi. He gets a lot of yards when he has the ball in his hands."

Xander is taking his uncle, Jason Taylor, to the game on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Taylor and Xander's mother, Judith Taylor, grew up in Bristol, Pa., and they are lifelong fans.

"We had relatives who wanted to send gear with us to take into the stadium — just so they could say it had been at the Super Bowl," Judith Taylor said.

Xander was diagnosed at age 4 with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer which occurs primarily in the extremities of the arms or legs.

Through the assistance of the National Football League, Make-A-Wish is granting the wishes of Xander and 13 other children to attend Super Bowl LII. The children and their families flew to Minnesota on Thursday and attended a welcome reception at Dave & Buster's in Edina.

In addition to going to the game, they will have a private tour of U.S. Bank Stadium and go to the NFL Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

"It's awesome. I get to go to the Super Bowl. I never thought I would," said Elijah Jones, 14, of Asheville, N.C. Elijah, whose brain tumor is in remission, is a Charlotte Panthers fan, but he'll be rooting for the Eagles on Sunday.

"I don't want the Patriots to win," Elijah said. "I'm not sure who will win. I know that Madden (video game) predicted the Patriots will win, 24-20."

Brendan Tori, 15, lives in Palm Harbor, Fla., but he's a Detroit Lions fan at heart. His favorite player was running back Barry Sanders.

Brendan, who has a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma, said his wish was to "attend the Super Bowl because it is an unforgettable chance of a lifetime." He will attend the game with his father Steve Tori.

When the Toris arrived at their hotel room at the Fairfield Inn in Bloomington, Brendan found a football signed by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. "I couldn't believe it," he said.

Steve Tori, who grew up in Michigan, is a fan of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but Brendan said he'll be rooting for the Eagles to win on Sunday.

"It's going to be a close game," he said. "I don't like the Patriots."