21 Feb After brain tumor, young boy trains with Olympic gymnasts thanks to Make-A-Wish
“Every dream fulfilled begins with a simple wish.” – Anonymous
For 9-year-old Elijah Harper, his dream became a reality when Make-A-Wish of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana presented him with an opportunity to train with the U.S. Men’s National and U.S. Men’s Olympic gymnastic teams, at a revealing party held in December.
An avid tumbler since the early age of 6, Elijah’s mother, Pepin, first noticed her son’s love for gymnastics after waking up to him tumbling down the hallway of their home one morning.
“He loves everything about the sport,” she says. “He would watch YouTube videos and teach himself how to tumble in the back yard. It wasn’t long before he could land a full. [That’s] one of his favorite tumbling skills.”
The all-expense paid trip sent Elijah and his family to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the national team training camp.
“We weren’t expecting all they did for us,” explains Pepin. “They surprised us by picking us up in a limo and arranging a 3 day, 4 night stay at the OTC.”
“Training days would consist of 9 a.m. warm-ups, gymnastics training until 11 a.m., and continued training from 2 to 4 p.m. They also arranged for us to visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Air Force Academy on our last day there.”
“It was an adventure of a lifetime and we’ll cherish those memories forever!”
In June of 2015, Elijah was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor in the brain. The golf ball-sized tumor was removed shortly after.
This energetic and determined fourth grader spent the next two months recovering at Akron Children’s Hospital, followed by 6 weeks of proton radiation in Chicago, and continued chemotherapy treatments over the next 12 months.
“Medically, Elijah has undergone more in less than a year than most of us will in a lifetime,” Pepin told Akron Children’s Hospital. “His recovery has been a struggle and very tiring at times, but his faith and determination has kept him active.”
After dropping to her knees in the emergency room one night, this single mom of 4, recalls laying her head on the doctor’s lap and requesting prayer as she wept.
“From that moment on I let God take the wheel. He’s been by our side the whole way. He didn’t let me wander in any direction except His promises and the truth of His word.”
For the Harper family, faith and hope are found in the person of Jesus Christ.
“We believe that by His stripes we are healed. We press into God in times of struggle and trust that still, small voice of hope!”
In January, Elijah’s MRI results came back cancer free!
“By the grace of God, he is a walking miracle,” Pepin said!
Although Make-A-Wish made it possible for Elijah’s dream to come true, he’s not stopping there.
In a signed copy of his book from Simone Biles, one of his favorite gymnasts and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, she wrote the words “dream big.” And he plans to do just that.
“When I grow up I want to be a baker, a gymnast, and an Olympic Gold Medalist,” says Elijah.
If you were inspired by Elijah’s story, join the movement and make more life-changing wishes possible by visiting www.wish.org.