Watching him run, stunt, flip, and jump, you might never guess that 15-year-old wish kid Zach recently won not one but two battles with cancer. Zach translated his lifelong passion for parkour—the sport of moving rapidly through an area and negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing—into a wish come true that gave him the strength to keep fighting and overcome even the most difficult of obstacles associated with his illness.
After his first battle with cancer and subsequent surgery, Zach thought he might be cancer-free when a devastating second opinion led to further treatments and chemotherapy. Zach, however, says he was never scared; instead, he worried the medical journey would be more difficult for his family than for him.
The possibility of a wish was just what Zach and his family needed to keep their fighting spirits strong. “It was amazing how literally, on a dime, it just turned everything around mentally,” explains wish mom Leah. “As a mom, it meant a lot, because I saw him go from being pretty blue about things to ‘oh my gosh, well this isn’t so bad. I get to do something really cool that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do.’”
For Zach, there was no question that a wish come true would mean training with parkour professionals at Tempest Freerunning Academy in Los Angeles. With four locations, Tempest Freerunning Academy is the top training facility in the world. The academy specializes in both parkour and freerunning, a derivative of parkour that it describes as focused on “creating an aesthetically pleasing journey that involves acrobatics and other tricks.”
“I really liked parkour and freerunning as a kid. In fourth and fifth grade, my best friend and I would run around climbing buildings and stuff,” says Zachary. “I have always wanted to go to Tempest [Freerunning Academy] for real training. I wanted to get a professional opinion on a skill that I taught myself.”
Soon, Zach and his family arrived in Los Angeles ready for a life-changing experience that included several days of training at local gyms, a special experience at Tempest, and even a visit to Universal Studios. After a couple of days spent warming up and fine-tuning skills, the day finally came when Zach would enjoy a private lesson at Tempest Freerunning Academy. His excitement only building, Zachary started with some basic skills to warm up.
“While I was warming up for the private lesson at Tempest, I landed wrong while doing something really easy; I just tripped and landed wrong and broke my foot,” says Zach. Despite the poor timing, he laughed it off, bringing the same positive energy to the experience that he’d relied on during his illness. “I remember I was really down the last couple of months, and then getting to go to LA and meet all of my heroes really made me feel a lot better. All of these miniscule skills that I could not work on by myself because I didn’t have equipment, I got to do with them, and it was really cool,” he explains.
With his parkour skills fine-tuned and foot carefully in a cast, Zach and his family returned to Hawaii with a story to tell and a positive experience that marked the end of his journey with cancer. Inspiring his family, friends, and Make-A-Wish volunteers, Zach continues to navigate life with this glowing positivity.
“Attitude has an impact on health. Positivity, happiness, and mood impact our bodies,” says Leah. “His wish kept him going during a very dark time.”
Now, months after his wish was granted, Zach is using his talents and experiences to wish it forward. Zach participated in Make-A-Wish Hawaii’s first-ever virtual talent show, submitting an incredible video of his parkour skills, which took third place and raised $2,000 to grant wishes for more children like him. And, even further exemplifying his compassionate nature, Zach donated his pizza party prize to other kids fighting cancer at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Click below to watch Zach's winning parkour video!