Santa Barbara-based Dream Foundation arranges for San Bernardino resident to go to Sunday’s big game
Kellirae Cox couldn’t help but smile.
The 21-year-old San Bernardino resident was a school cheerleader throughout her life at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, and she has always loved watching football. Now she gets to attend her first NFL game, and it’s not just any old NFL game.
On Wednesday, the student body at the school for the deaf gathered at a pep rally and watched as one of its alumni, Miss Cox, found out she’s going to the Super Bowl Sunday with her mother, aunt and former cheerleading coach Stacey Hausman.
That’s thanks to efforts by the Dream Foundation.
The Santa Barbara nonprofit makes dreams come true for terminally ill adults. Miss Cox, a San Bernardino resident with melanoma that has metastasized, has a life expectancy of six months. But she’s at peace with her diagnosis, and in the eyes of those who know this young woman, who stands 4 feet 2 inches tall, she couldn’t be taller in terms of her positive energy.
“She is a beacon of hope and positivity for all of us,” Ms. Hausman wrote the Dream Foundation.
Miss Cox wrote the foundation with her request for the tickets to the game in Glendale, Ariz. The foundation contacted the NFL, which made a large donation, so Miss Cox, her mother, her aunt and Ms. Hausman could attend the game.
And they will stay at a Phoenix home, thanks to an Airbnb host.
“I was very surprised that I got the tickets,” Miss Cox said, using American Sign Language during a Zoom call from San Bernardino. The aunt who’s going with her to the game, Suzanne, served as the interpreter during the News-Press interview Thursday afternoon.
“I thought it was never going to happen. It was very last minute when we did the applications,” Miss Cox said. “I was surprised and excited.”
The Super Bowl pits the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles, and Miss Cox explained why she’s rooting for the latter.
“Kansas City beat my team, the (Cincinnati) Bengals,” Miss Cox said with a smile. “So I cannot vote for them, and I cannot root for them.”
Her aunt added that the entire family is supporting the Eagles.
Signing enthusiastically, Miss Cox stressed how excited she is to attend Sunday’s big game.
“Even though I’m deaf, I can still feel the excitement of the teams, of the people around you,” she said. “You can feel the vibrations at half time.”
Miss Cox is excited to see the halftime show, which will star Grammy-winning singer Rihanna.
Throughout elementary, middle school and high school grades, Miss Cox, who loves to dance, was one of the California School for the Deaf’s cheerleaders at football and basketball games and even wrestling matches. She also has participated in cheerleading competitions with other schools for the deaf.
Today she’s enjoying her online college classes at Mount SAC in Walnut and said she’s interested in zoology. She has two dogs — a Chihuahua named Holly, who acts like the boss of the two canines, and a rottweiler who understands American Sign Language, Cleo.
Miss Cox has maintained her positive energy despite some health challenges. She was born with an unknown condition that causes disabilities such as deafness, stunted growth, breathing difficulties, stomach issues and weak bones.
Despite all that, she became known as someone who embraces life.
“I’ve always tried to live a normal life and be positive,” said Miss Cox, who has one sibling, an older sister. “I never want people to say, ‘Oh,you’re deaf.’”
Miss Cox said she’s comfortable in both the hearing and deaf worlds. “I have a lot of hearing and deaf friends.”
When asked how she came to be at peace with her cancer diagnosis and life expectancy, Miss Cox thought for a moment.
Then she started signing.
“All my life, I’ve had health issues, and it’s never changed me,” Miss Cox said. “I decided when I found out that I had cancer, I wasn’t going to change my life or my attitude.
“I’m still Kellirae. I’m not cancer; I’m Kellirae.”