UND Running Back Makes Three-Year-Old’s Birthday Wish Come True

UND RB John Santiago helps three-year-old Della McArdle celebrate her birthday.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When it came to Della McArdle’s third birthday, planning the theme of her UND Football inspired party was a piece of cake.

“She has been talking about having a Sioux football party for forever,” Della’s mother Kaitlyn Rau said. “She loves Sioux Football.”

But making all her birthday wishes come true wasn’t simply a hop, skip and a jump away.

“She wanted ‘2-2’ to come to her party,” Rau explained. “I mean what can you do? You have a three-year-old who doesn’t want toys she wants ‘2-2’ to come to her party.”

‘2-2’, better known as UND Running Back John Santiago was the missing link…. that is until a Facebook video of Della went viral. Her video reached over 5,000 people, but never did they expect it to reach the one person that mattered most.

“I don’t really go on Facebook that much, but I had a couple of people from the team and just around the program tag me in it and got me to go on Facebook for like once in two months,” Santiago said. “I mean it was touching, just to see support from a three-year-old. It touched my heart that’s for sure and I had to come out here for it.”

And together they had an action-packed afternoon.

“We went jumping,” Della explained.


“They played football, soccer, they played hide and seek, which was cute,” Rau said. “But as a three-year-old you don’t know how to hide very well.”

And the rest of their ventures weren’t exactly smooth sailing… or rather smooth sliding.

“I think the most fun, the most interesting to say the least was going down that slide,” Santiago said. “I mean I didn’t fit, but I tried. I got a little bumps and bruises on my back but I went down there for her so that was fun.”


So not only has North Dakota’s star running back gained a new friend, he’s also sporting a brand new nickname.

“‘2-2’, I think that one’s going to stick,” Santiago said. “That’s a good one. They usually call me ‘Santiagoooo’, but I mean ‘2-2’ is one that’s going to stick and I like that one so I’m glad she came up with it.”

And Della’s glad she’ll have plenty of ‘2-2’ stories to share for a long, long time.

“We’ve been talking about it for months even before he showed up and now that he showed up I’m sure we’ll hear about it for the next several months,” Rau said.

Della found the perfect way to thank ‘2-2’ for attending her birthday bash. She requested for everyone, rather than buying her presents, to donate to John’s mission trip fund. John will be traveling to El Salvador over the University of North Dakota’s Spring Break.


To help John raise funds for his mission trip click here.

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