It’s the Wednesday after the Fiesta Bowl. Jan Garcias and her daughter Brittany Riggs are waiting for the UCF football team to arrive back on campus.
“No matter what you’re doing in life, if you’re on a win streak that loss is hard,” Jan says to a couple other UCF fans gathering.
Jan and Brittany have already been to the Sanford Airport this afternoon. They were going to greet the team there, but got word that the Wayne Densch Sports Center on the UCF campus was the spot.
“I tweeted so what do we do on Saturday’s for the next seven and a half months!” Jan says to the group.
Brittany remains pretty quiet. She has Down Syndrome and has difficulty communicating with speech. Her UCF gold converse shoes, black and gold beads, UCF Knights shirt, and McKenzie Milton signed hat do all the talking for her. She loves this team.
“That hat sleeps right next to her,” Jan says as they continue to patiently wait.
At home Brittany’s bedroom is a shrine to the team. She got to meet Milton earlier this season. He took a picture with her and also signed and gave her his hat. The hat has a special shelf on her head board.
Look around her room you’ll see a UCF desk chair, UCF Minnie Mouse ears, a UCF national championship banner, and a picture of her tailgating group.
“Tailgating group is family,” Brittany says.
Brittany had her favorite UCF gear all packed and ready to go for the Fiesta Bowl. Then just days before the game Jan heard a thump from Brittany’s room.
“And I ran up here and she was just getting up. She was very pale and I asked her what happened. She said I passed out,” Jan says.
Brittany was born with a heart defect that was repaired when she was three years old. After this incident she was taken immediately to the hospital. Tests showed she was experiencing short PR intervals, essentially an electrical problem with her heart. The doctors said it wasn’t safe to fly to Arizona at this time.
“She was really bummed out,” Jan says. “We were really looking forward to this.”
Brittany didn’t get to go to the game, but she got the next best thing. Jan had posted a picture to Twitter of Brittany in the hospital and tagged UCF. McKenzie Milton and several other UCF players responded by sending Brittany a get well video message.
“I cried, and I cried, and I cried. She just sat there with smiles on her face,” Jan says.
Jan posted Brittany’s reaction to the video on Twitter. The post has gotten 1.3k likes as of January 7th 2019. Jan and Brittany made the trip to the UCF campus for the chance to say thank you in person.
Several busses pull in front of the Wayne Densch building.
“Here they are! There they come B!” Jan says. Brittany pumps her fists with excitement.
Not only did Brittany get to say thanks. She gave hugs. Several UCF players stopped to say thanks to Brittany for her support including one of her favorites Nate Evans. Jan and Brittany sit next to the Evans family during games.
“My heart is so happy,” Jan says after meeting the players, but their afternoon wasn’t over yet.
“Hey miss Brittany how you doing?” Head coach Josh Heupel pauses from signing autographs to take a photo with Brittany.
“Love hearing a story like that about Brittany that’s filled with passion,” Heupel says afterwards. “And Saturday afternoons bring her a lot of joy. Great that our players love interacting and making a difference in young people’s lives.”
After the picture with coach Brittany goes and gives her mother a hug. Jan is crying. Brittany asks, “Is everything okay?”
“Just makes Mommy cry sometimes, that’s all,” Jan says.