Jonas’ Real wish comes true
If anyone was wondering what it meant to have sports superstar David Beckham make a trip to our little corner of the world, its painted all over the permanent smile on the face of Park City’s Jonas Peek.
The smile means a lot more than the excitement of the game or the opportunity to shake hands with sport greatness. It’s the outward sign of a young boy’s dreams fulfilled.
Peek, who is only eight, has spent the last four months battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When his parents learned that Real Madrid and Beckham were due to a make a trip to Salt Lake City, they knew that this might be the chance to give their little boy a big ray of soccer sunshine in his otherwise difficult life.
Before Peek became sick he was just learning the game of soccer. His parents had signed him up for soccer with the Park City Extreme Club and he spent his free time kicking the soccer ball around with his 11-year-old brother, Riley.
Then everything changed.
In the spring, Jonas’ parents noticed that the young boy’s lymph nodes were swollen. A doctor’s visit gave the Peeks some news they weren’t expecting cancer. Luckily, Jonas was only in stage one, which meant it was easily treatable with chemotherapy. The Peeks pulled the second grader out of school at McPolin Elementary and began the long journey to cure their young son.
Jonas had wonderful support from his friends. Schoolmates took turns escorting him on hospital visits and both Jonas’ and Riley’s friends shaved their heads to show solidarity. But soccer soon became the beacon that helped Jonas cope through four grueling months of chemo and recovery.
As Jonas will tell you, he’s had his good days and his bad days, but, on the good days, his after-school sport soon became his main focus. His father, Bob, says that when his energy was up, Jonas could stand in his yard for hours just kicking the ball around or passing back and forth with his brother and father. During the early weeks of chemo treatment, when Jonas was too tired to even get out of bed, World Cup soccer games entertained him and kept his mind off of the scary things that were going on in his small body.
And that is why, when it was confirmed that Beckham was on his way to Utah, the Peeks were determined to make some soccer magic for Jonas.
"Soccer has been a lifeline through his cancer ordeal," explained Jonas’ mother Lynn.
So, she contacted the Make-A-Wish Foundation to put in her son’s request. She said the results were absolutely amazing.
"My original wish was to kick the ball with Beckham and meet him," explained Jonas, but Make-A-Wish, Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid went way beyond his expectations.
They were determined to make the event part of the best week of Jonas’ life.
"I can’t believe how far they go out of their way to make it special," Lynn said.
Meeting Beckham was just the beginning for Jonas and the entire Peek family. The team put them in a hotel room at the Grand America, the same hotel as the Real Madrid team, and made sure Jonas had some spending money for his special week. The boys were treated to an exclusive autograph session with Beckham and other stars from the Madrid team. Next came a clinic during which Beckham took time to personally show Jonas how much he cared.
"Beckham was so nice," said Lynn repeatedly.
"It was cool. All us were really impressed with him and how outgoing he was," Bob said.
To top things off, both boys were named ball boys for Xango Cup game between Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid. Jonas walked in with another Madrid megastar, Raul, who also lavished attention on Jonas.
"Real Madrid creates an atmosphere that fans are really important," Lynn said. "They were gracious and friendly."
Throughout the game the boys assisted the officials by throwing back any game balls that went astray.
Riley, who has been there for his brother throughout the entire cancer experience, says that being included in Jonas’ wish was incredible.
"I’m really lucky because I get to do everything, but I don’t have to pay the price," he said giving Jonas an encouraging smile.
But perhaps the best part of the whole experience was how perfectly the timing of the Madrid visit coincided with Jonas’ cancer battle. The week before, Jonas finished his final round of chemotherapy, ending a four-month ordeal of hospitals, doctors and constants bouts of exhaustion and discomfort. So, the arrival of Beckham also meant the arrival of a cure for little Jonas and with his new soccer obsession, there could have been no better way to celebrate.
Not to be outdone, Real Salt Lake also made sure that they were part of the Jonas’ healing process. Real Salt Lake owner, Dave Checketts, has a son who is a cancer survivor and other members of team management have also been touched by the disease, so the team was committed to helping Jonas make a speedy recovery.
"The people from Real Salt Lake were amazing going 100 miles past what we expected," said Bob.
Players sent signed balls and the team provided tickets throughout Jonas’ treatments. Goalie Scott Garlick, who lives in Park City and also coaches with Extreme, even sat with Jonas during a chemo session.
"Jonas walked out of the hospital not feeling sick, because of Scott Garlick," Lynn said.
Not sure whether it was hope, or inspiration or just a smiling face, the Peeks are sure that, somehow, soccer has made a difference in their son’s recovery. It worked to keep his spirits healthy, even when he was so sick.
The funny thing is Bob and Lynn never really followed soccer before Jonas got sick, but the smile it delivered has made the entire family fans forever.
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