Sometime late last year (2014), I was notified that I had the opportunity to have a wish, granted by the Make a Wish foundation. Make a Wish is an organization that grants special wishes for kids going through life threatening illnesses, such as cancer. When they first contacted me, I didn’t know what to expect so for the next couple of days, I was online looking up previous wish videos and thinking of ideas that maybe I could wish for. A couple of weeks later, two wish volunteers came to our house to consult with me on options that I was considering. I knew I was going to wish for something related to sports. At the end of our meeting, I had narrowed my options to just two. One option was going to the Wimbledon tennis championships and maybe hitting on the grass courts. Before I was diagnosed, I was an avid tennis player and I thought it might make sense to do something related to the sport I play. The other option was to be a Washington Wizard player for the day. I love playing basketball in my driveway with my brother or at the school gym and I love watching the Wizards on TV or at the Verizon center.
We gave the two options to the Make a Wish volunteers and they got back to us a week later telling us that both were feasible. But by this time, I had already known what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Wizard for the day! The Washington Wizards are my favorite basketball team and basketball is my favorite sport to follow. I have been a Wizard fan all of my life, even when they were not winning a lot of games, and my family would always go to the games when we could. I knew if I went with this wish, I would get to meet my favorite player in the NBA, John Wall. I also have a fathead, a life-size sticker, of John Wall in my room, which was a gift from my friend after surgery.
January of the next year came around and my mom got a phone call from Make a Wish notifying us that my wish had been granted for March 27th, 2015! All I could think was “wow, this is really happening.” In preparation for the day, I would try to go outside every day to shoot hoops. Even on days when I wasn’t feeling well, I would do my best to try to get in shape. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of the Wizards! By the time March came around, I was getting really excited for the wish day and couldn’t wait. On March 20th, a team from Make a Wish came with a whole bunch of cameras to interview my family. For about two hours they were just setting up all of the equipment so the person on camera has the perfect lighting and looks great on camera! The crew came around 10:00 in the morning and didn’t leave until about 7:00 in the evening! After an exhausting day of interviews, I could only imagine how great this wish day was going to be. By the time it was March 26th, the day before my wish day, I was so excited but I still didn’t know for sure what I would be experiencing! That night, I couldn’t sleep at all! I may have slept a total of 1 hour, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the next day. Finally, it was time for me to get ready, so I head downstairs to see a limousine waiting in our driveway to take me to the Verizon Center (Washington Wizards basketball arena)!
I was with my mom and dad, heading to the arena and my brother was at school, and would be joining us a little bit later. We arrived at the arena, and a bunch of cameras were waiting for me. I was immediately hooked with many microphones for each camera and was told that the cameras were going to follow me wherever I go! As I enter the arena, two Wizards cheerleaders meet me and they give me a tour of the arena. We come to a hallway and I have no idea where I am! As we walk closer, I see a really, really tall person at the end of the hallway. After I get a better look, I see that it was the Wizards starting center, Marcin Gortat!
He takes me to have breakfast and as we enter, I turn the corner to see who waiting for me? Oh yeah, John Wall!
I sat down to have breakfast with my favorite basketball player and I was speechless. While I finish up my breakfast, I meet the rest of the team, and I head to the locker room to find a locker with my name on it filled with Wizards gear to wear, including a jersey with my name on it. Then, I head to the court to watch the Wizards practice. As they transition to shooting around, I was called to rebound and help out with practice. Marcin Gortat even lifted me to dunk on the 10-foot hoop!
After that, I had a bunch of interviews to do and I felt famous for a bit there!
At this point in the day, the Wizards all go home to freshen up and get ready for the game, later that evening. So, after all of my interviews, my family and I went to a nearby hotel to get lunch and rest up for the evening.
Around 6:00, we arrive at the arena via limousine (of course, I’m famous today!). As I walk in, I am taken to the owner’s suite to meet Mr. Ted Leonsis, owner of the Wizards, and Mr. Ernie Grunfeld, GM of the Wizards!
We talked for a bit, and then they called me over to a table to sign an official NBA contract, to make me a Washington Wizard’s player for the day! I go back to the court and rebound and practice with John Wall and Marcin Gortat during shoot-around. Before I knew it, it was game-time! I was told that I would be introduced with the starting lineup! As my name was called, everyone in the crowd started to get up and cheer! I then go up to the owner’s suite to watch the game. Few minutes in, Ted Leonsis offers my brother and me his courtside seats, right next to the players’ bench!
As the game progressed, the Wizards ended up being down by four with just 10 seconds left. After an exhilarating comeback by the Wizards, they end up winning in double overtime! After a great game, John Wall took me back to the locker room where he gave me his game jersey and shoes (yeah, the jersey was really sweaty, but I didn’t care!). Paul Pierce, an NBA legend, also came to me with his shoes from the game! After that, I didn’t expect anything more but I was called into the coach’s conference room to meet Coach Wittman. He gave me the game ball, which was signed by the whole team! And I sat next to him at his press conference answering questions from the media!
I still keep in touch with the Wizards, and they even called me back for one of their playoff games later that season. After that game, I was taken back to the locker room to meet the players and coach again. I had a talk with Paul Pierce about how great his game winning shot was!
Including the make a wish game, the game I went to during the playoffs, and two more games that my parents took me to, the Wizards didn’t lose! So, I think that I am the good luck charm! After a hard, season ending loss, I was heartbroken, but I look forward to next season and to going to many more games! I also have all of this gear framed and kept on display, so I can see it every day.
After a great day of fun, I realized the impact that Make A Wish foundation has on kids like me. For the few months before my actual wish, I knew it was coming up, so I was always looking forward to this day and was more cheerful as a result of that, even though I was going through some tough times with my treatment. The wish event really helped me get through the end of chemotherapy in much better shape. I would always look at the video that is the recap of that day to cheer myself up when I needed it.
I also want to thank the Wizards organization for making this day happen for me. Every member, including all of the players, were just so nice and kind and made the day super special for me. I am already looking forward to cheering them on next season!
Please check out the video published by Make a Wish on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENHHmFY8MLU and remember that everyone of your donations to Make a Wish helps a kid like me, going through tough times, have a wish come true!