Scotts Valley teen headed to Olympics courtesy of Make-a-Wish

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

When representatives from the Make-a-Wish Foundation asked Erick Murai for a couple of renditions of his one true wish, the former Scotts Valley High running back and cornerback kept it simple: He said he’d like to meet an NFL player, preferably Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
That wish fell through, so Murai will have to settle for his alternate request. In the place of Jones-Drew, he may get to meet a couple of NBA players — ones with names like Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. And, he’ll to fly 5,300 miles and across nine time zones to do it.
Murai is headed to London, where they don’t have the kind of football he played before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010, but they do have the 30th Summer Olympic Games.
“The whole experience is going to be kind of nice,” said Murai, 18. “Traveling and being in a different country and the whole thing is going to be nice.”
Nice may seem like a lukewarm adjective for what may be the most extravagant wish ever granted by Make-a-Wish, a nonprofit that specializes in turning extravagant wishes into realities for children ages 2 1/2 to 18 coping with life-threatening medical issues. But Murai can easily be forgiven for not wasting his energy sorting through descriptors. He needs all he can muster to fight his cancer.
Murai ingests chemotherapy pills [which also affect his cognitive thinking] daily and travels to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto once a month for a lumbar puncture to help the treatment bypass the blood-brain barrier. He began receiving chemotherapy in 2010, shortly after he went to the hospital complaining of shivers and neck pain – nothing too unusual for a young football player – and was diagnosed with leukemia. He will continue the treatment routine for about another year with the hope he can eradicate all the spores, including the ones in his bone marrow, where the cancer originated. If the treatment is successful, he will return to Palo Alto for periodic checkups for three more years.
After that, Murai may get the wish he holds above all others.
“It is possible it will never come back,” his father, Gerrod Murai, said of the cancer. “There’s a 60- to 70-percent rate.”
Murai will get to bring his father on the trip with him, as well as his younger brother, Christian, 15. In all, Make-a-Wish plans to send 53 children and their families — 42 from the U.S. and 11 from other countries — to the London Games, according to Sarah Kaplan of the San Francisco Make-a-Wish chapter. Kaplan said it is impossible to know how much those wishes will cost until they have been completed, nor does the price tag matter.
“All wishes are expensive, some more so than others, but our goal is to grant the one true wish of children with life-threatening illnesses,” Kaplan wrote in an email. “We are committed to providing impactful experiences for wish kids and their families, no matter the wish.”
During one trip to Stanford for treatment, Murai was told to start dreaming.
“They asked me what I would want for some wishes and … I wanted to travel and do something with sports,” Murai said. “I thought of some other things. Then I remembered the Olympics were coming up this summer. I decided that would be a good choice.”
The Murais leave July 31 and return Aug. 6. It will Erick’s second flight ever. He took his first when he traveled with his Falcons football teammates to Oregon for a game last fall.
“It’s going to be an incredible opportunity really,” said Gerrod Murai. “I’ve seen so many Olympics on television, but I never thought I would actually be there. There’s quite a few really exciting things going on with the Phelps record and the basketball…. The idea of being able to see all of that will be pretty awesome.
“It’s a little overwhelming.”
He might even say it’s a Dream Team come true.
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Follow Julie Jag as she covers the Olympics at http://www.scsacrossthepond.wordpress.com.
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GET INVOLVED
Make-a-Wish
Make-a-Wish has granted 212,000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical issues since it was founded in 1980. The biggest expense for most wishes is airline miles. Donate your miles or money here.

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