Theirs is an unlikely friendship and a bond strong enough to make 12-year-old Tyler McWhirt’s dream come true.
Tyler and Hillsborough County deputy Thomas Paradiso first met at a bike registration event.
“The bike was in disrepair and needed work. So, I figured there was something more we could do for him. He was amazed with law enforcement and just a really good kid,” Paradiso said.
Deputy Paradiso pooled together donations from his own family and that of other deputies to give Tyler and his younger sister new bikes and helmets, but it was a phone call soon after from Tyler’s grandmother that really hit Paradiso.
She told him that the condition Tyler suffers from, causing him to go deaf and blind, was getting worse. She also told him that Tyler was being raised by a single mother who couldn’t work because she dedicated so much time to taking Tyler to frequent doctor’s appointments.
“My grandmother was blind. My aunt was blind. I had two uncles that were blind and one of them was deaf and blind. So, seeing his determination hit me hard,” Paradiso said.
With time of the essence, Paradiso immediately started raising money to send Tyler to Disney, which is his one wish before he likely won’t be able to see or hear anything any longer.
“What turned out to be a goal of $600.00 turned into $1,100.00 in donations,” Paradiso said.
There has been overwhelming support for Tyler since Paradiso got involved in his life. Tyler’s entire family plans to go to Disney next week for an all-expenses paid, four night stay. “He’s a good friend. He’s awesome,” Tyler said of his friendship with Paradiso.
“It means so much. We’d never be able to take him to Disney and let him experience this while he has a chance. We can never be thankful enough for what he’s done,” Tyler’s mother, Rhonda, said.
Deputy Paradiso is feeling thankful as well for the unexpected and lasting friendship.
“I told them I want pictures and stories. They’ll always have my phone number and to see them happy and not have these worries, that’s my wish. I think all our wishes were granted,” Paradiso said.
Tyler’s mother, Rhonda McWhirt, said any more donations that come in will be used to send Tyler to see a specialist in Miami who might be able to restore some of his vision thanks to bionic eyes.