May 24, 2022
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(CNN) — Ever because the film “Moana” first hit theaters, 8-year-old Mathias Pascal from Cuxac-d’Aude, France, has dreamed of visiting the land of “Vaiana” — the title for the ebony-haired heroine of the 2016 Disney blockbuster in its French launch.

“He watched the movie ever since he was little, and I’d inform him, positive, someday we are going to go,” Mathias’ mom, Aline Pascal, informed CNN throughout a latest cellphone name from Raiatea within the South Pacific. It’s one of many Society Islands in French Polynesia, the place the household is wrapping up a monthlong journey they didn’t count on to be taking so quickly.

It was almost a 12 months in the past that Pascal and her husband, Eric, obtained information no guardian ever expects to listen to.

After noticing that Mathias — an in any other case sporty and lively 7-year-old on the time, who cherished swimming within the pool and the Mediterranean Sea close to their dwelling — was having mobility points, the couple, comparatively unworried at first, took him to the physician.

Days later, on December 30, 2020, they received the horrible prognosis. Mathias had an aggressive type of mind most cancers referred to as mind stem glioma. Due to its proximity to crucial constructions, they have been informed it was inoperable and that their blond-haired boy with the glowing eyes doubtless had only one 12 months to reside.

“The very first thing we did was give up our work the very subsequent day, so we might spend each minute surrounding him with love and help and making him really feel pretty much as good as potential,” stated Aline, who left her job as a nurse. Eric left his job as a welder.

“Then we determined we might discover a option to take Mathias to the place of Vaiana,” she stated.

Mathias Pascal and his mom, Aline, get pleasure from a journey on a standard boat in Moorea, French Polynesia.

Courtesy Aline Pascal

A neighborhood bonds collectively to assist

French Polynesia, which sprawls over 1.6 million sq. miles of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America, is known for its otherworldly magnificence throughout 118 islands and atolls.

The landscapes in locations corresponding to Tahiti (the island the place most worldwide guests land), Moorea, the Marquesas and atolls corresponding to Rangiroa and Fakarava embody every thing from verdant and vertiginous mountains and booming waterfalls to ring-shaped coral atolls that appear to be life preservers tossed onto the deep blue ocean. The islands are recognized for having a number of the greatest scuba diving on the planet.

Well-known for luring honeymooners with their hearts set on staying in an overwater bungalow someplace corresponding to Bora Bora, the vacation spot is a rare one — and one which tends to come back with a rare price ticket, too.

Because the Pascal household moved ahead with radiation and chemotherapy remedies in France for their son in early 2021, Aline stated she and Eric deliberate to pack a backpack and a tent to discover French Polynesia on a funds with a view to make their son’s large dream come true.

However when an area benevolent affiliation within the metropolis of Narbonne, La Bande de Copains, heard concerning the younger boy’s plight, a plan started to take form.

A show about Mathias Pascal’s dream journey appeared within the window of an optician’s store in Narbonne, France.

Courtesy La Bande de Copains

The group first met Mathias in July 2021 after a mutual pal linked them, stated the group’s president, Benoît Perez.

“Narbonne is a small metropolis of fifty,000 inhabitants the place everybody is aware of one another,” Perez stated in an electronic mail to CNN. “After we heard the information of a 8-year-old boy who was sick, it was pure for our affiliation to come back to the household’s assist.”

What ensued was an outpouring of affection from the group’s greater than 300 members and the higher neighborhood within the French departments of Aude, Aveyron and past that spawned a slew of fundraising occasions all through the summer season and fall.

The group labored to lift cash for the household’s travels by promoting bracelets emblazoned with the phrases “Vagues d’amour” (waves of affection), holding a carnival for youngsters, promoting “lottery” tickets donated by native companies and holding a Polynesian soirée for 250 those who bought out in 48 hours, Perez stated, full with a standard efficiency of the Haka dance.

La Bande de Copains organized a Polynesian soirée in September in Coursan, France, to lift cash for the journey.

Courtesy La Bande de Copains

In the end, he stated, 33,000 euros have been raised (about $37,000). It was sufficient to ship Mathias, his mother and father, his older brother, Maxime, and a cousin from the South of France to the South Pacific for a month to immerse the boy within the land of his heroine.

Mathias’ aunt and and uncle paid their very own option to French Polynesia from France.

Perez stated he has been buoyed not solely by Mathias’ and his household’s indomitable spirits however by the outpouring of affection from the higher neighborhood throughout what he calls a “very tough interval in France.”

Between the rise of extremism within the nation and Covid-19 pitting the vaccinated and nonvaccinated in opposition to one another, Perez stated, France’s mantra of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” appeared to “lose its that means” of late.

Mathias and his dream served as a unifier, inspiring solidarity at a time when the neighborhood wanted it most.

“It’s a tricky second proper now,” Perez stated, however the trigger has supplied mild throughout darkish instances and “allowed us to place issues into perspective, and to show that by being all collectively we are able to obtain very good issues.”

Mathias was greeted with flowers and music upon arriving on Raiatea.

Courtesy Aline Pascal

The journey of a lifetime kicks off

These very good issues kicked off for Mathias and his household on November 26, once they launched into a greater than 24-hour journey that may in the end land them aboard an Air Tahiti Nui flight from Paris to Papeete, on the principle island of Tahiti.

After they lastly left for French Polynesia, the household left their tenting tents and backpacks behind.

A French public TV channel that broadcasts in French Polynesia reported the story about Mathias’ dream, stated Aline. After that, a whole bunch of provides for every thing from visitor home lodging to day journeys on boats to snorkel with reef sharks rolled in from across the islands.

“We had extra provides and invites than we might probably make occur throughout a month,” she stated.

The household determined to go to six islands and atolls — Tahiti, Moorea, Rangiroa, Huahine and Raiatea — and plans to spend Christmas floating in Bora Bora’s well-known lagoon carrying Santa hats. They’ll then return to Narbonne, the place their journey began, on December 30, 2021, a 12 months to the day when their lives modified ceaselessly.

They’ve been sharing their adventures in a Fb group referred to as Mathias En Polynésie for associates and supporters.

Mathias and his household obtained a heat Polynesian welcome on Rangiroa.

Courtesy Terry Ward

The smells, sights and sounds of the islands deliver consolation

Over the previous a number of weeks, younger Mathias has been welcomed like royalty in every single place he’s been, his mom stated. And regardless of the magnificent issues they’ve seen each above and beneath the water’s floor, it’s the deep nicely of hospitality from the French Polynesian those who has left the most important impression on the household.

A tattooed man dressed like Maui from “Moana” was among the many native welcoming committee once they first landed in Papeete. There, Mathias received to point out off one other dream of his that got here true — to be tattooed like Maui himself.

Earlier than Matthias left France, a tattoo artist made an exception to tattoo the younger boy’s arm with the depiction of a kneeling Tahitian girl carrying a flower pareu (pareo) and crown.

When the household landed on the atoll of Rangiroa on December 6, drumbeats thundered by way of the air. Youngsters wearing grass skirts, and shell necklaces danced earlier than Mathias in a welcome match for a president.

Mathias and Aline Pascal in French Polynesia.

Courtesy Aline Pascal

Crowns and flower necklaces strung with tiare (Tahitian gardenias) have been piled upon the household as they pushed their boy in his wheelchair from the tarmac into the open-air airport with a thatched roof.

Whereas the illness has affected her son’s imaginative and prescient and paralysis on his proper facet has confined him to a wheelchair, Aline stated she takes photographs of issues on her cellphone to point out Mathias an up shut view of the fantastic thing about the landscapes. And he can clearly really feel the entire sensations and feelings surrounding them, she stated.

Mathias visibly reacts to smelling plumeria and different tropical flowers, the sound of somebody strumming the ukulele and the magical feeling of bathing for hours within the arms of his mother and father, brother and aunt and uncle in an ocean far hotter than again dwelling.

“At first he was a little bit afraid to enter the ocean right here since he can’t see in addition to earlier than,” Aline stated. “However he’s gotten his confidence again and now it’s him who asks to go in. He’ll even take a nap within the ocean.”

After so many months of hospital appointments and coverings, she stated, the journey provided the prospect all of them wanted to recharge and disconnect from all of that — and Mathias seems to be benefiting most of all.

“He’s extra lively now, he spends much less time sleeping, he makes jokes once more that he’d stopped making earlier than,” she stated.

And whereas Aline stated individuals they meet are typically stunned to see the household laughing and joking collectively, realizing Mathias doubtless has mere months left to reside, they wouldn’t have it every other approach.

“When he’s not right here, I’ll have loads of time to cry,” she stated. “Now we have to maintain the grins, maintain the nice vitality, maintain the hope for at the present time and tomorrow, for Mathias,” Aline stated.

“It’s concerning the high quality of the times you will have left, not what number of days you will have left.”

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