PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Darius Ziabakhsh was one of eight lucky winners selected by Ronald McDonald House Charities to win a trip to attend the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The nine-year-old from Vernon Township, NJ, who suffers from VACTERL Association, was awarded the prize, in part, for helping organize and plan Thanksgiving dinners for the Ronald McDonald House in New Brunswick.

Ziabakhsh talked with Chris Stigall on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT about the great time he had at the Summer games.


“It was amazing. We went to Christ, The Redeemer. We went to the beach. Of course, I went to the opening ceremony…It was awesome. When I came out, I saw the crowd and I was amazed. It was so many people.”

His mother, Tracy Smith, said her son was astonished to find out he’d be making the trip to Brazil.

“McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald Charities made a surprise for each kid. Each kid had a different kind of reveal. Darius’ was a huge culmination of trying to get a lot organizations up, and they did an amazing job at surprising him. They took him to a Red Bulls soccer game in Newark and they brought him out onto the field. The whole time I was telling him the Ronald McDonald House gave us some tickets to go on the field…He was in his glory because he was at the soccer field.”

She praised the charity for everything they’ve done for Darius and others that rely on them when traveling to hospitals far from home and stated they’ve been integral in coordinating the care and treatment that he needs.

“Ronald McDonald House is our second home. To be honest, I don’t know and I don’t want to know where we would be at this point if we didn’t have them. If we didn’t have them, there was no way that we would’ve been able to travel to Cincinnati and stay there because we’re there for weeks and months at a time and there’s just no way we would’ve been able to afford hotels and food and everything that comes along with it. But, not only does it come along with the food and the price and everything like that for stays, but it’s the support and the love and the care that these volunteers and staff give these kids and their families.”