Ridgefield boy battling genetic condition sent to the Super Bowl: ‘A priceless experience’

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

RIDGEFIELD — During football season, Conner Curran and his family hunker down at home on Sundays. They order wings to enjoy in front of the TV while watching the games, their eyes fixed on the action.

But this year on Super Bowl Sunday, Curran saw the big game from one of the 70,000-plus seats in SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was among 15 children to attend Super Bowl LVI through the foundation, and one of three from Connecticut.

“It was my favorite part, watching the game,” said Curran, a fifth-grader at Barlow Mountain Elementary School. Although he favored the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Los Angeles Rams, “It was a great game.”

Curran, 11, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or DMD, when he was 5. The genetic condition affects mostly young boys and is marked by the progressive loss of muscle as the body fails to make dystrophin, a muscle-building protein. It also deteriorates the skeletal, cardiac and pulmonary muscles.

The effort to make Curran’s dream come true began a year ago, his father Chris said, but the pandemic’s unpredictability could have thrown the trip off course. In November, Curran’s wish was granted: he and his family would spend Super Bowl weekend in Los Angeles.

The Currans arrived on Feb. 9. That Thursday, Curran and his mother, Jessica, attended the NFL Honors awards presentation.

“Connor was guessing who would get each award, and he was right a lot of the time,” she said.

The pair dressed up and walked the red carpet before the reception. They met NFL players like Travis Kielce, Daniel Jones, Dak Prescott, Kurt Warner and Russell Wilson, who asked Curran to take a selfie with him.

“That was surprising,” Curran said.

On Friday, the whole family attended the NFL Stadium Experience, where they toured SoFi Stadium and Crypto.com Arena, formerly the Staples Center. Around the arena were different booths and experiences, including a chance to take a picture with the Lombardi Trophy.

At two of the sponsored booths, the family met two of the biggest names in the NFL: Eli Manning and Jerry Rice.

“Eli found out that Conner was a Wish kid and asked to bring him backstage,” Chris said. “He spent 10 minutes with us — same with Jerry Rice.”

Rice let Curran try on one of his Super Bowl Rings for size.

“I never thought that was gonna happen,” he said. “It was really cool.”

On the day of the big game, Curran and his father returned to SoFi stadium for Super Bowl LVI. Through all four quarters as well as the halftime show, he had a smile on his face, “grinning from ear to ear,” Jessica said.

“I was soaking in every second of that experience, wanting to slow down time,” Chris added. “Watching him in his glory was a priceless experience I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”

This week, Curran will travel to Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., for follow-up testing in an ongoing gene therapy clinical trial offered by Pfizer for boys with DMD. He was the first patient in the program four years ago, and has shown some signs of improvement.

Some 90 percent of boys with DMD become non-ambulatory in their early teenage years, and many don’t live past their late 20s.

“For an 11-year-old with DMD he is doing well,” Chris said. “Most kids are already in a wheelchair full-time (at this point) — Conner only uses it for long distances.”

The Currans continue to raise money to find a cure through their foundation, Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy.

“The experience (at the Super Bowl) filled his heart with such joy,” Jessica said. “This will be something that through his hard times… (he’ll) always remember with a smile on his face. … He’s given so much of his time and body to science — this is something that he got back.”

For information about the Currans’ foundation, visit www.kindnessovermd.org.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com