Tears rolled down Hana Allen’s cheeks when she finally figured out what was happening.
She thought she was attending a party Tuesday for volunteers at the Kansas City Ronald McDonald House Charities. But as a video began, with messages from Hana’s teachers and doctors, Hana learned McDonald’s was sending her to the Rio Olympics.
Hana, a 12-year-old girl from Pleasant Hill, is one of eight children in the U.S. and 100 children worldwide selected by McDonald’s to go to the Olympics. The kids will participate in the opening ceremony on Aug. 5.
She will attend the games with her mother, Heather Allen, who said they will arrive in Rio on Aug. 2. The kids have rehearsals for the opening ceremony in the days leading up to the start of the games. Allen said they plan to watch several of the events.
Hana was born with VACTERL association, a group of birth defects, and has spent much of her life receiving treatment. She has been to a specialist in Cincinnati, where she and her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.
Heather Allen said Hana is still being treated for her condition but also counsels families and children with the condition. Hana also volunteers with the local Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Allen said the family found out about the trip in late May, and it was difficult keeping the secret from Hana.
“This was harder than Christmas presents,” Allen said.
The children going on the trip are in friendship duos, who formed bonds during their time in Ronald McDonald House Charities. Hana is paired with her friend Darius, a 9-year-old from New Jersey, who spent time at the same Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati and has the same condition.
The celebration also included two local athletes who competed at the Olympic trials: Emma Reaney, a swimmer from Lawrence, and Brenna Dowell, a gymnast from Odessa. The two both gave Hana Olympic-related gifts, including a T-shirt from the trials and a swim cap.
McDonald’s has sent children to the Olympics through the McDonald’s Olympics Kids Program since the Beijing Games, but this is the first year the kids will participate in the opening ceremony.
“Your story has been an inspiration, and you’ve been on a remarkable journey,” said Scott Rockwell, the McDonald’s Heartland Region general manager.