Christmas wish comes true for NJ 6th grader with surprise homecoming

Kim Glovas
December 18, 2019 - 2:11 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Christmas came a little early for one elementary school student in Woodbury, New Jersey, Wednesday morning. 

It was a typical pre-Christmas scene. Sixth graders sang carols to seniors at a rehabilitation center. Then each student approached a microphone and said what they wanted for Christmas. 

When it was 11-year-old Mark Ditizio's turn, he knew exactly what to say: "Hi, I'm Mark Ditizio, and what I would like most for Christmas is to see my brother, who is in the United States military."

Then Mark walked away as applause broke out.

Then his brother, Private Second Class Eric Shaw, stepped forward and quietly said, "I'm here." 

Mark turned around, saw his brother, and jumped into Eric's arms, and the two shared a long hug. 

"He had no idea," said Shaw, who is home for the first time in seven months.

"Apparently they'd been planning this since October," Mark said. "All of them are jerks, but I love them."

Mark Ditizio and his brother, Private Second Class Eric Shaw
Mike Dougherty/KYW Newsradio

Mark's mother Nicole explained the thinking behind the surprise. 

"We have realized that the best thing you can do is time with somebody, and make a memory," she said. "Rather than give a present, take them out and do something with them. Give them an experience. So that had a lot to do with our mentality going into this."

Shaw says he plans to spend the next 17 days making those memories with his family.