(CNN) — Ever for the reason that film “Moana” first hit theaters, 8-year-old Mathias Pascal from Cuxac-d’Aude, France, has dreamed of visiting the land of “Vaiana” — the identify for the ebony-haired heroine of the 2016 Disney blockbuster in its French launch.
It was almost a yr 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 energetic 7-year-old on the time, who beloved 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 bought the horrible analysis. Mathias had an aggressive type of mind most cancers referred to as mind stem glioma. Due to its proximity to essential constructions, they have been informed it was inoperable and that their blond-haired boy with the glowing eyes probably had only one yr to stay.
“The very first thing we did was stop our work the very subsequent day, so we might spend each minute surrounding him with love and help and making him really feel nearly as good as doable,” mentioned Aline, who left her job as a nurse. Eric left his job as a welder.
“Then we determined we’d discover a method to take Mathias to the place of Vaiana,” she mentioned.
Mathias Pascal and his mom, Aline, get pleasure from a journey on a conventional boat in Moorea, French Polynesia.
Courtesy Aline Pascal
A group bonds collectively to assist
French Polynesia, which sprawls over 1.6 million sq. miles of the Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America, is legendary for its otherworldly magnificence throughout 118 islands and atolls.
The landscapes in locations akin to Tahiti (the island the place most worldwide guests land), Moorea, the Marquesas and atolls akin to Rangiroa and Fakarava embody all the pieces 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 identified for having a number of the finest scuba diving on the planet.
Well-known for luring honeymooners with their hearts set on staying in an overwater bungalow someplace akin to Bora Bora, the vacation spot is a rare one — and one which tends to return with a rare price ticket, too.
Because the Pascal household moved ahead with radiation and chemotherapy therapies in France for his or her son in early 2021, Aline mentioned she and Eric deliberate to pack a backpack and a tent to discover French Polynesia on a funds to be able to make their son’s huge dream come true.
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 buddy linked them, mentioned the group’s president, Benoît Perez.
“Narbonne is a small metropolis of fifty,000 inhabitants the place everybody is aware of one another,” Perez mentioned in an e mail to CNN. “After we heard the information of a 8-year-old boy who was sick, it was pure for our affiliation to return to the household’s assist.”
What ensued was an outpouring of affection from the group’s greater than 300 members and the higher group within the French departments of Aude, Aveyron and past that spawned a slew of fundraising occasions all through the summer time and fall.
The group labored to boost cash for the household’s travels by promoting bracelets emblazoned with the phrases “Vagues d’amour” (waves of affection), holding a carnival for kids, promoting “lottery” tickets donated by native companies and holding a Polynesian soirée for 250 people who bought out in 48 hours, Perez mentioned, full with a conventional efficiency of the Haka dance.
La Bande de Copains organized a Polynesian soirée in September in Coursan, France, to boost cash for the journey.
Courtesy La Bande de Copains
Finally, he mentioned, 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 method to French Polynesia from France.
Perez mentioned he has been buoyed not solely by Mathias’ and his household’s indomitable spirits however by the outpouring of affection from the higher group throughout what he calls a “very troublesome interval in France.”
Between the rise of extremism within the nation and Covid-19 pitting the vaccinated and nonvaccinated towards one another, Perez mentioned, France’s mantra of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” appeared to “lose its which means” of late.
Mathias and his dream served as a unifier, inspiring solidarity at a time when the group wanted it most.
“It is a robust second proper now,” Perez mentioned, however the trigger has supplied gentle throughout darkish instances and “allowed us to place issues into perspective, and to show that by being all collectively we are able to obtain excellent issues.”
Mathias was greeted with flowers and music upon arriving on Raiatea.
Courtesy Aline Pascal
The journey of a lifetime kicks off
These excellent issues kicked off for Mathias and his household on November 26, after they launched into a greater than 24-hour journey that may finally land them aboard an Air Tahiti Nui flight from Paris to Papeete, on the primary 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, mentioned Aline. After that, tons of of presents for all the pieces from visitor home lodging to day journeys on boats to snorkel with reef sharks rolled in from across the islands.
“We had extra presents and invites than we might probably make occur throughout a month,” she mentioned.
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 will then return to Narbonne, the place their journey began, on December 30, 2021, a yr to the day when their lives modified ceaselessly.
Mathias and his household obtained a heat Polynesian welcome on Rangiroa.
Courtesy Terry Ward
The smells, sights and sounds of the islands convey consolation
Over the previous a number of weeks, younger Mathias has been welcomed like royalty in all places he is been, his mom mentioned. And regardless of the magnificent issues they’ve seen each above and beneath the water’s floor, it is the deep nicely of hospitality from the French Polynesian people 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 after they first landed in Papeete. There, Mathias bought to indicate 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 lady 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. Kids 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 mentioned she takes pictures of issues on her cellphone to indicate Mathias an up shut view of the great thing about the landscapes. And he can clearly really feel all the sensations and feelings surrounding them, she mentioned.
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 just a little afraid to enter the ocean right here since he cannot see in addition to earlier than,” Aline mentioned. “However he is gotten his confidence again and now it is 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 mentioned, the journey supplied the possibility all of them wanted to recharge and disconnect from all of that — and Mathias seems to be benefiting most of all.
“He is extra energetic now, he spends much less time sleeping, he makes jokes once more that he’d stopped making earlier than,” she mentioned.
And whereas Aline mentioned individuals they meet are typically stunned to see the household laughing and joking collectively, figuring out Mathias probably has mere months left to stay, they would not have it another means.
“When he is not right here, I am going to have loads of time to cry,” she mentioned. “We now have to maintain the grins, maintain the nice power, maintain the hope for at the present time and tomorrow, for Mathias,” Aline mentioned.
“It is concerning the high quality of the times you’ve left, not what number of days you’ve left.”