Make-A-Wish Makes Fourth-Grade Boy’s Dream a Reality

Nellie Shih

By Anushka Nair ’20, Contributor

Just hours before the end of the day at the Windemere Community Learning Center in Akron, OH, fourth grader Elijah Harper made his way to what would potentially be a dream-making assembly.

A lover of gymnastics, Elijah started to ‘train himself’ in his backyard at only 5 years old and eventually started to attend classes at his local YMCA. However, in June 2015, Elijah was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor, and those classes, unfortunately, had to come to an end. Still enthusiastic, Elijah’s love of his sport led him through three surgeries, two spinal taps, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Pepin Harper, Elijah’s mother, says that, “It was kind of part of his healing, and now he’s just so strong. It kind of helped him rehabilitate…He’s just got a gift. It’s nothing but God. It’s part of His plan.” As of October 2016, Elijah has finished his chemotherapy and is now slowly on his way to recovery.

Friends, family, and teachers have been constantly giving Elijah their whole-hearted support: putting stuffed animals in his chair on days he was absent, sending pictures to him to make him smile, and even hanging a banner in the gym with his picture and the words “Harper Strong.” But, Elijah would never have been able to prepare for the ultimate assembly in his honor.

“Surprise!” children, teachers, and parents cried with excitement as Elijah opened the doors to see Dominique Moceanu, 1996 USA gymnastics gold medalist holding her medal and a paper Olympic torch.

“I’m here with Make-A-Wish to help your dream come true,” Moceanu said to an overjoyed Elijah. Originally, Elijah’s dream was to attend the Rio 2016 Olympics, but due to flight complications, it was not possible. Instead, the Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged for Elijah to train with the US Olympic Men’s Gymnastics Team for a few days in Colorado.

“I hope you believe in yourself and always believe in your dreams,” said Moceanu, “And [that you] have a blast in Colorado. I know you will.”

A video of the occasion can be seen here.