What Disney means for one man with Down syndrome

Like many people born with down syndrome in the 1960s, Miguel Joseph Muro's doctors told his family he wouldn't live long. Not only has he proved them wrong, he's also brought so much happiness and joy into his family and friends' lives. Now, they're hoping to make his one last wish come true. 

Miguel Joseph Muro, better known as 'Tiger,' was born with down syndrome and after a bad experience at a summer camp, he broke his hip bone then started showing early signs of dementia. His sister and others are trying to raise enough money to help make

Like many people born with Down syndrome in the 1960s, Miguel Joseph Muro's doctors told his family he wouldn't live long.

"The doctors told our family he should be institutionalized," said Micaela Muro Dimos, Miguel's sister and primary caretaker. "That he would bring nothing but sadness and sorrow to our family and he wouldn't live past 20 years anyway."

Miguel was named after his father and instead of going by 'Junior,' he went by 'Tiger.' He's lived up to that fierce nickname: Tiger just turned 56-years-old last December.

Micaela still remembers childhood memories with Tiger. She calls him her "Irish twin" because they're only a year apart.

"He'd come wheeling down on his bicycle with some kind of homemade mask and some sort of cape flying behind him," laughed Micaela. "He's always had a very rich imagination and a love of superheroes."

Micaela added that their father was raised in Anaheim, and they spent many summers at their grandmother's house.

"We could watch fireworks [at Disneyland] from her bedroom," said Micaela. 

Tiger's love for superheroes, Disney, and Elvis has never faded. He still has plenty of Elvis memorabilia all over his bedroom and often wears a Batman costume.

But something else is fading.

"My brother has dementia and his symptoms are increasing," said Micaela. "There's a lot of things he doesn't remember and doesn't seem to get excited about."

Micaela said everything about Tiger changed after one summer camp in 2014 - his physical health and his spirit. Tiger broke his hip bone and had to spend three months in a nursing home. He said he was abused, but the camp denied it.

"He has since had an episode of PTSD," said Micaela. "Little by little, he's being taken away."

Micaela added that their father and brother died earlier that year. Those deaths plus the alleged abuse at camp was just too much for Tiger to handle. 

"I dropped him off one day, he was one way," said Micaela. "His life has changed a great deal. He's still mobile, but uses a walker daily. His balance is poor. He's incontinent, getting dementia. I had him assessed in May, prior to the camp, there was no sign of dementia at that point."

But recently, just like magic, a special little mouse brought a piece of Tiger back.

"We loved going to the Disney electric light parade. Just the other day, they were advertising it again," said Micaela. "That's when he said 'Oh Disney! Mickey!' And he got very excited, remembering the parade."

The Disney classic from 1972 returns for six months only, running until June. So, time is ticking for Tiger, in more ways than one.

"Disney is one of those early memories," said Micaela. "It made him excited to see the commercials. We need to take him while he still remembers."

So, enter Tom and Tina McDaniel and their daughter, Mandy Tovar - they're the family behind the Barn Cafe in Wilton.

Tiger and Micaela have been customers of the family's business for about fifteen years. They're actually more like family friends.

"With Tiger, he's the only one we ever went Christmas shopping for," said Tom. "It's not just Tiger, it's his sister too. They're special people and it's just been a joy being part of their lives."

On the night ABC10's Frances Wang met Tiger for the first time, they celebrated his birthday, even though it wasn't.

"He hasn't done this lately, but every time he'd go some place new, he'd tell them it's his birthday," said Micaela, laughing. "I'd get this note saying 'We celebrated Tiger's birthday!' He learned now to work the new group." 

The Barn Cafe is raising money at their restaurant and also online through GoFundMe to send Tiger to Disneyland in April, so he can catch the electric parade.

The past few weeks has been difficult for Tiger as he's been dealing with pneumonia, a UTI, and another bad fall.

On top of it all, Tiger's still hurting from the loss of both his parents and his older brother. At dinner, he pointed to his heart saying 'My Dad.'

Micaela's hoping they'll be able to make it and she's determined to make Tiger's wish come true.

"The things he used to love to do, he can't anymore. He was an artist and always loved imitating Elvis. Those pieces of him are gone and that's hard, but he's brought so much joy to our life [and] I love him," said Micaela, through tears. "He's my little brother. When I saw his reaction to the Disney electric parade I knew I wanted to take him. I wanted to take him and help him have a good time."

And to those doctors who said Tiger would bring nothing but sadness and sorrow, once again, they couldn't have been more wrong. 

"Having somebody with Down syndrome just gives a different perspective on life," said Micaela, "He looks at people and sees happiness and love and joy and wants to make a connection. I actually believe our family has been blessed and better because of it."

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