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Texas-Sized Surprise For Leukemia-Stricken Child Who Loves Sharks

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - CBS11 has teamed up with a Wish with Wings, an organization granting the wishes of little Texans with life-threatening conditions, to surprise a 9-year-old boy with leukemia named Gianmarco at Cook Children's Hospital.

Gianmarco loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dominos, Legos, and sharks. He wants to become a marine biologist when he grows up.

CBS11 Traffic Reporter, Chelsey Davis and her group of elves set up a Christmas tree, brought in a dancing Rudolph, an elf, Santa and a singing cowboy to start their surprise for the deserving little boy.

Since he loves Dominos, the team set up a Domino trail that Gianmarco kicked over to lead him to the surprise. As he turned the corner, his family and the group of helpers sang, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as Rudolph danced around him.

Gianmarco then received an exclusive Q&A with Santa about the North Pole. The group jokingly asked if he was on the nice list, and Santa chuckled, "Though we don't have a hard copy of the list anymore because everything is on the computer, you are definitely on the nice list!"

Sea Life and Legoland donated tickets for Gianmarco and his family, and the Dallas Aquarium gave him a swag bag full of shark books, stuffed animals, and an honorary staff shirt, to name a few. Including those contributions, Gianmarco had somewhere close to 75 presents. The group also brought gifts for his 5-year-old brother as well.

In the midst of unwrapping the gifts, Batman surprised the group with a special message for Gianmarco. "I had to come see the real hero, and that's you," Batman exclaimed.

Batman and all of the fun characters gave Gianmarco a personal concert singing all of his favorite Christmas songs ending with, "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

Then, Gianmarco skyped with Paula Carlson, Director of Husbandry from the Dallas World Aquarium so he could see sharks and fish swimming behind her in the tank.

"Do you know what you're looking at?" asked Carlson.

"Uh huh! A sword fish swimming below you," responded Gianmarco.

He was completely engaged and fascinated by the Skype call, but exhaustion started to take over after all of the overwhelming surprises. The family thought the surprises were over, but there was one more!

As a shark lover, Gianmarco especially loves to watch 'Shark Week' on Discovery Channel, and he got to chat with an expert on the phone. Andy Dehart has 20 years of experience with sharks, is Shark Advisor for Discovery Channel, and has appeared in several 'Shark Week' episodes.

"What's your favorite kind of shark?" Dehart asked over the phone.
"Great White," Gianmarco said.
"Oh yeah the Great White. Mine is the Tiger Shark," Dehart explained.

With a soothing tone to Gianmarco's ears, Dehart expressed his desire to Skype with him any time he feels up to it, and an autographed book should arrive soon.

Mother Sonia and Dad Alfredo Vergel said altogether, this was one of the biggest surprises they've had the four months they've been in the hospital.

"I think he was just taking it all in. He's like, WOW!" said Sonia. With tears welding up in her eyes, she continued, "I always want him to be encouraged and to have hope. I think this gave him that."

"Thank you very much. We appreciate you so much. What you've done for our son to keep hope in his heart, to give him more reasons to push and to fight," added Alfredo.

Though this ended the "Texas-Sized Surprise" for Gianmarco's Christmas, this inspired others to give and the surprises continue. Now, other shark specialists from across the country are sending him videos, care packages, requests to Skype and prayers.

Check back to to see what the next "Texas-Sized Surprise" will be.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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