While family members say it’s difficult to make 15-year-old Dyllan smile, the Kalihi teen couldn’t help it when it was revealed that his wish to meet Houston Rockets star James Harden was coming true.
“Dyllan doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but we know when he smiles, he’s going crazy inside!” says wish dad Robert. The news Dyllan would be meeting his idol came as a total surprise, and his parents knew he would be up all night thinking of the big day as they excitedly read through the wish itinerary.
An unexpected referral to Make-A-Wish Hawaii from Dyllan’s doctor was embraced as an opportunity for him to experience something he’ll never forget. It has only been a few years since Dyllan was diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a disorder that affects his physical and cognitive abilities and, until recently, caused frequent seizures.
Despite the challenges of daily life with this genetic disorder, Dyllan has always found time for basketball, playing after school and, of course, watching James Harden on TV. Since the beginning of his interest in basketball, he has idolized the NBA MVP, who plays both point guard and shooting guard for the Houston Rockets. Despite catching some heat from friends through the team’s ups and downs, Dyllan has always defended James Harden and the Rockets.
And when Dyllan’s wish to meet the basketball star in person came true, it was an incredible, life-changing experience from the moment he and his family landed in Houston. Dyllan and his brother were met with matching bags full of Rockets merchandise. Then came a locker room tour, complete with a chance to “walk like a player” – cameras were rolling as Dyllan had the epic moment captured on the locker room walkway. Once on the court, Dyllan and his family had front row seats to watch a practice day.
After the players wrapped up, James Harden came over and asked the question of the day: “Wanna shoot?” He was rebounding for Dyllan, and the two had the whole arena to themselves. But James had a challenge for Dyllan – there were only a few seconds left in the game, and Dyllan needed to land two free throws to win. After nailing them, James and the stands went crazy. The prize for Dyllan’s game-winning performance? Signed shoes that are now patiently waiting for a display case in his room. “Don’t even put your foot in that shoe!” dad Robert warns with a smile. Practice day was just a warm up for what was to come, however, as Dyllan also had the opportunity to attend a game between the Rockets and the Sacramento Kings. Viewed from prime seating in the 12th row, a Rockets victory was the cherry on top of an unforgettable wish come true.
Dyllan’s time with the Rockets has left a lasting impression. Now, when a game comes on, watching James Harden isn’t just seeing a basketball star working his magic – it’s like cheering for a friend. Dyllan has found a renewed passion for the sport he loves so much, and his family and medical team have seen a physical change, too. Dyllan’s neurologist noted that basketball and staying active has been a positive factor in his health. Prior to the wish, Dyllan was feeling discouraged about playing. He would still watch games, but his condition was affecting his legs, making it difficult to perform some basketball moves. However, Robert says that since the trip, the two are hitting the court three times a week, and that Dyllan has found a renewed vigor. While still a fan of James’s “crossover” move, Dyllan has taken a few notes from his experience and is working on another Harden classic: the step-back three.
The experience was transformational for the whole family, as well. Says Robert, “[This] was my ultimate wish, too. Ultimate day, ultimate wish. It was so awesome … we’re so super thankful for everything.”