Make-A-Wish gives young boy the opportunity to train with USA Gymnastic team
Make-A-Wish surprised Elijah Harper with an opportunity of a lifetime to train with the USA Gymnastic team.
Make-A-Wish, USA Gymnastics, cancer, Akron Children's Hospital,
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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.

Elijah is surprised by Make-A-Wish at his school in December. (Photo by Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal)

RELATED: Find out how you can help Make-A-Wish continue making dreams come true for kids 

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.

Elijah with his mom, Pepin.

“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.”

RELATED: Make-A-Wish sends Windemere fourth-grader to train with Olympic gymnasts

The U.S. Men's National and U.S. Men's Olympic gymnastic teams hosted Elijah for 3 days.

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.”

Nice handstand, Elijah!

“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.”

He nailed the landing!

“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.

After nearly a year of treatments, Elijah is cancer free!

“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.”

Elijah received great care at Akron Children’s Hospital thanks to special nurses Robyn, Sarah, Becky, and Lauren.

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.

Simone Biles encourages Elijah to "dream big!"

“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

  • Pepin Harper
    Posted at 01:08h, 22 February Reply

    Great job Kristen!!

    Each day we walk we thank Him for each step!! Focus on that light at the end of the tunnel even when you can barely see it. Press into Jesus!! When things seem impossible, remember, NOTHING is impossible with God!! Keep your eyes on Jesus!
    In Christ’s love,
    Pepin Harper

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