NEW GLASGOW – When Jalen Johnson found out he had cancer, he had to put down his basketball and focus on getting better. One year later, the 14-year-old basketball player is back on the courts and thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation, he’ll be watching his idol in the NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas, next week.
Foundation volunteers, family and friends gathered in the Johnsons’ home Friday afternoon as Foundation volunteer Marsha Sobey handed Jalen four plane tickets to Texas, tickets to the NBA All-Star Weekend and Game, a new camera and Children’s Wish Foundation merchandise such as Roray the Wish Foundation’s mascot.
Jalen found out he had cancer one year ago at the age of 13. The starting player for the New Glasgow Junior High School basketball team had to bow out of the season because of pains in his leg. His mother, Lovessa Johnson, told The News in April that it was a shock to the family when the pain in his leg turned out to be a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In Jalen’s case, it centred in the bones of his leg.
Lovessa said it’s been a difficult year for her son, but with the support of his friends, family and community he has kept a positive attitude, which inspired his mother to do the same.
“He’s been through a lot for a kid and throughout it all he’s remained optimistic and positive and has kept a good attitude and I’m so happy that he’s getting this opportunity because I wouldn’t be able to give it to him otherwise,” she said. “He’s totally my hero, my champion. I can’t stress that enough.”
Jalen’s dream trip isn’t the only thing the Johnsons are celebrating this month. Shortly after he returns from his trip, Jalen will go to the IWK in Halifax for his final treatment.
“It’s been a year since the diagnosis, the start of his treatment to now. So, to conclude things with this trip and come back for his final treatment, it’s amazing,” Lovessa said, adding that after the final treatment, Jalen will go back for scans in March to confirm the cancer is gone.
“It’s so hard to believe that we’re coming to the end of his journey and the doctors and oncologists are confident and optimistic that we’re going to win the battle,” she said.
Jalen said he’s “looking forward to everything,” about the trip. But what he wants most is the chance to see his favourite basketball player in action.
“What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing my favourite player, Kevin Durant play,” he said. Durant is number 35 for Oklahoma City Thunder, Jalen’s favourite team.
Jalen will travel to Texas with his mother, brother and father.
Both Jalen and Lovessa thanked the Children’s Wish Foundation for making his dream trip a reality.
“I want to say thank you to the community at large, family and friends and strangers alike who have taken the time to ask about Jalen’s progress,” Lovessa said. “Whether it was a phone call, an email, a Facebook message, it all helped to keep us going and keep him strong. All the help from the community and organizations in the community, we wouldn’t have made it this far and couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Children’s Wish Foundation has been granting the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses since 1984. Since its inception it has granted more than 19,500 wishes to Canadian children including 927 in Nova Scotia and 39 for children in the New Glasgow area.