When Waianae wish kid Van was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid polyarthritis, his life completely changed. Where he used to love practicing mixed martial arts and lifting weights with his three brothers, Van now had trouble simply walking. Due to his condition and limited mobility, he began to gain weight, and soon needed to use a wheelchair to get around. When approached with the prospect of a wish, Van knew a home gym would truly be life-changing, allowing him to gain his strength and mobility back.
“He got rheumatoid arthritis, and it caused him to not walk, and he had to be homeschooled. That’s what made him gain all this weight, and that’s what made him choose this wish,” explained Van’s brother Daniel.
When wish granters Talia and Kari met Van, they could see that a wish come true would mean the world to him, delivering hope and strength at a time when he needed it most.
Together with wish coordinator Amanda, Talia and Kari began designing the perfect home gym and fitness plan to help Van reach his goals, including enlisting the help of fitness trainer Ikaika Gilman.
“Immediately his wish just hit me, hit my heart,” said Ikaika. “Without question, without a doubt, of course I wanted to help. It’s going to take some time, some getting to know him and seeing what motivates him, but I’m really excited to get going.”
The team also knew that this wish would require a commitment from Van’s entire family to make the most impact on his life.
“The family is so important to this wish,” said Amanda. “I knew going into this that I needed [their] support and [the support of] all the siblings. I needed to see their buy in, and I got it from all of them. I walked away knowing this kid’s going to make it.”
Soon, it was time for Van’s wish to come true. As he and his family enjoyed a day out, volunteers and supporters readied the new gym, setting up Van’s weight rack, marking his fitness calendar and wrapping incentive prizes, and hanging balloons and wish day signs.
When Van finally arrived home to find his extended family, friends, and Make-A-Wish ohana all there cheering him on, he was overwhelmed with joy. He headed immediately to his new gym, laced up his boxing gloves and began playing with his brothers.
But Van’s wish day was just the beginning of his journey. With continued support, we are sure Van will achieve his goals. In fact, just a week after his wish was granted, Van had already lost six pounds and was walking more easily.
“Hopefully it can turn his life around,” said Daniel, Van’s brother. “We’re all going to get active with him and try to push him for the better.”
Make-A-Wish Hawaii would like to thank Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Total Fitness, Rebound Hawaii, Ikaika Fitness, Hawaii Navy, WBell Photography, Gravy Films, and all of the volunteers, friends, family, and community supporters who have shown Van their support on this journey.
“I’d just like to thank Make-A-Wish for making it happen for him,” said Daniel.