For nine-year-old Makoa, sports are a way of life. And baseball is at the center.
Maybe it’s because he idolizes his older brother, Kainoa, who has played the game from Little League to middle school. Or maybe it’s because one of his first memories is of a Mariner walking right up to him and handing him a baseball at a game. No matter what the reason, his love of the game has gotten him through some of his darkest days.
A year ago, Makoa’s dreams of following in his brother’s footsteps and playing Little League were sidelined when he was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of taking turns at bat with his brother and making a run for home plate, he was in the hospital tethered to a machine administering life-saving chemotherapy.
“It was really tough seeing Makoa deal with the prods and pokes and surgeries, but he was so brave throughout it all,” said his mom, Angela.” His name means ‘Fearless, courageous and brave’ in Hawaiian, and he really lived up to his name.”
This usually social and energetic boy suddenly had to stop doing the things he loved most. His weakened immune system meant no school, no crowds and certainly no baseball.
His normally carefree days were instead filled with doctor appointments, hospital stays and painful pokes and prods. But a bright spot has emerged now that Makoa is awaiting his wish from Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington, the organization that grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
While he waits to regain his strength so he can go on this wish, Make-A-Wish and the Mariners have teamed up to give him something else to look forward to.
Makoa has been selected to christen the Mariners 2018 season with the inaugural run around the bases at the home opener on March 29, 2018.
“Every year since 1999, a local wish kid from Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington has helped to kick off the new baseball season at Safeco Field,” said Trina Cottingham, vice president of wishes at Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington.
While the chalk lines are still pristine and the bases untouched, these courageous kids have the honor to be the first of the season to make the 90-foot journey from base to base in front of a stadium of cheering fans. “As a lifelong baseball fan and a Make-A-Wish employee, this is one of my favorite moments of the year,” said Cottingham. “It’s hard not to get emotional as you look down to the field and see this child running the bases, knowing the obstacles he has gone through to get to this place, and then to see 40,000 people on their feet rooting for him…it’s inspiring, heart-warming and moving.”
For Makoa, his run around the bases marks a turning point when he can put the harsh realities of cancer treatment in his rearview mirror and start the next chapter of his life.
Each day, at least one child in Alaska and Washington is diagnosed with a critical illness and we are not reaching them all. Research shows, and physicians agree, a wish can improve a child’s quality of life and produce better health outcomes. These life-changing wishes replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope—helping children battling critical illnesses see the impossible as possible.