Local boy gets golden opportunity with McDonald’s trip to the World Cup

June 17, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

John Carroz took his 9-year-old son J.K. to get passport photos in early May.

“Are we going somewhere?” an inquisitive J.K. asked.

“Uh, no, it’s a Mother’s Day gift,” John responded, trying his best to hide a secret of epic proportions.

By Greg Farrar Sounders FC goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (left), Eastside FC player J.K. Carroz, 9, and Ronald McDonald pose for publicity and family photos at local owner Alan Finkelstein’s Gilman Boulevard McDonald’s restaurant after the unveiling of a banner with the surprise travel prize for Carroz.

By Greg Farrar
Sounders FC goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann (left), Eastside FC player J.K. Carroz, 9, and Ronald McDonald pose for publicity and family photos at local owner Alan Finkelstein’s Gilman Boulevard McDonald’s restaurant after the unveiling of a banner with the surprise travel prize for Carroz.

The cat was finally let out of the bag June 11, when, in front of family, friends and Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, J.K. learned he won a trip to the World Cup in Brazil courtesy of McDonald’s.

Not only does the Issaquah Valley Elementary School student get a six-day trip to Brazil, he’ll also get to walk out on the pitch alongside the U.S. National Team when it plays Portugal on June 22. Only 20 children from the United States get the opportunity.

“That feels pretty special to me, and I think it’s going to be fun,” J.K. said after the initial shock wore off.

John entered the online sweepstakes in April, and learned in early May that J.K had won. The contest was available in this market, thanks to local McDonald’s owners who opted to fund the initiative.

He had to keep the trip a secret until June, though, because McDonald’s had plans for a grand reveal to take place at its Northwest Gilman Boulevard location. J.K. and his Eastside FC soccer teammates gathered at the restaurant June 11, for what they thought was a regular meal.

There was nothing regular about it, when the Sounders goalkeeper and Ronald McDonald emerged from behind the front counter. They handed out gift bags to the team before making the big reveal in front of a sign emblazoned with the words, “Congrats, J.K., You’re going to Brazil!”

“It’s an honor to give him this chance of a lifetime,” said the longtime McDonald’s owner and local resident Alan Finkelstein. “Only so many kids get to go, so it’s so special to happen here in Issaquah.”

J.K.’s reaction was subdued, as the shy third-grader took in the magnitude of the reward. He’s excited, though, no doubt about it, said his father, who will accompany him on the trip.

Hahnemann, who has participated in two World Cups, said J.K. and his dad are in for one amazing experience.

“The stadiums are going to be massive,” he said. “I mean the whole atmosphere around the stadium and the city will just be buzzing.”

J.K. started playing soccer in kindergarten. He made his first premier soccer team recently, and rarely goes anywhere without a soccer ball. He likes playing defender, unlike most kids who prefer forward or midfield, he said.

His favorite player is Clint Dempsey, and he hopes he gets to walk alongside him when they enter the pitch June 22.

John and J.K. will leave for Brazil on June 18 and return the following Monday.

“I’m most looking forward to attending a world cup,” John said. “It’s a bucket list kind of item, and to have it crossed off with your son walking out onto the pitch to start the game, that’s pretty awesome.”

USA plays Portugal at 3 p.m. June 22 on ESPN.

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