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Make-A-Wish brings Fort Connor to reality

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Dressed in an Air Force utility uniform, an excited Connor Berardi sprinted through the crowd Saturday and into Fort Connor.
Inside, the 8-year-old found an arsenal of his favorite Nerf guns lining the wall of his personal man cave.
“I love it,” Connor yelled holding one of the toy guns and surrounded by friends.
The wooden structure behind the Berardi’s home on Stone Court just south of Paradise was unveiled Saturday morning by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Last year, Berardi was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT) — an extremely rare form of cancer. The disease has a low five-year survival rate, but Connor is in remission.
“He has a positive prognosis,” said Connor’s mother, Patina Berardi. “It’s because it was found early and hadn’t spread.”
His father Chad Berardi said Connor has been biking daily after spending much of the past year indoors, trying to get back to health.
“He’s doing wonderful,” he said.
Connor received word in May during an assembly at Bridgeport Elementary, where he attends, that he would get his own personalized man cave with a bunk bed, Xbox and the important Nerf guns. He was presented a model during the assembly.
He’s watched the construction of Fort Connor, but Saturday was his first chance to get inside and play.
“That’s been the hardest part, keeping him from peeking through the windows,” Patina Berardi explained. “He could see the outside. We’re blown away. They’ve went above and beyond.”
Seeing her son bounce around with a smile, she adds: “His excitement means everything. We can close a chapter. We won and we’re done.”
Kelly Read of Decatur headed the local Make-A-Wish effort to bring Fort Connor to reality. The foundation contracted with Grossman Design Build of Mansfield to construct the playhouse that includes air conditioning and electricity.
“This is the third project we’ve done with Make-A-Wish,” said Brian Grossman. “We’re happy to help. It turned out really good.”
Grace Fellowship’s Life Class completed the staining. Other community members, family and friends chipped in to finish the project by Saturday.
“I’ve done a lot of these but this one is off the charts,” said Paula Austell, a Make-A-Wish ambassador.
“He wanted a man cave to play video games and it blossomed from there.”
Air Force Tech Sergeant Tyler Allen from Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls attended Saturday’s unveiling and presented Connor with a wooden mission coin holder along with several mission coins. It was an appropriate gift for Connor who has a passion for the Air Force.
The Berardis are touched by the generosity of others. They have been donating time at the Ronald McDonald House and delivering food to families with children battling cancer.
“We can’t say enough. We’re trying to do everything we can to give back,” Patina Berardi said.
As for Fort Connor, the commander has set one important rule.
“There’s no shooting the Mega Gun in the house,” Connor said.