High school football star Tyreon Rankins had big dreams. A star athlete and a straight-A student, Tyreon had high hopes of playing football in college. Coaches looked to recruit Tyreon during his senior year at Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills, but that dream came to a crashing halt when he got devastating news: in October 2014 he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, forcing Tyreon to put his senior year on hold, along with his dreams.
“When we got the diagnosis, it was devastating,” said Lanai Ramirez, Tyreon’s mother.
Before his diagnosis, Tyreon, who is the oldest of five children, helped his mother cook, babysit and drive his siblings to and from different activities. During his battle with cancer, the roles reversed.
“His siblings took it hard, but they helped out a lot,” said Lanai.
The Chaminade community along with Tyreon’s new school, Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Los Angeles, offered support by sending food, flowers and cards to Tyreon and his family.
“The whole community helped us, by letting us know that there is hope,” said Lanai.
Tyreon needed his spirits lifted during treatment as the doctors found five different large masses in his body. Doctors told his mother he had advanced stage cancer.
Upon diagnosis, Tyreon spent two weeks at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for testing and initial treatment. For months he underwent rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Often, he had to be readmitted to the hospital. The physical pain he endured during treatment was greater than any hit he took on the football field.
To alleviate some of his pain and suffering, a social worker referred Tyreon to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“He had a light about him when we talked, especially about football and math. He lit up,” said Taylor Kalman, coordinator of external events for Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles.
After meeting with Tyreon and his family, Taylor knew she could not let him go.
“He stuck out to us. He is very mature for his age,” said Taylor.
When Taylor asked what Tyreon wanted most if granted one wish, he responded, “I just need a vacation” — from the hospital and for his family.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Tyreon’s wish during a rally at Bishop Mora Salesian, where he is repeating his senior year. At the rally, Tyreon completed an obstacle course blindfolded. While he completed the course, a slideshow silently played for the crowd, detailing Tyreon’s personal journey.
When Tyreon attempted to shoot a basket from the free-throw line, Bishop Mora Salesian Principal Alex Chacon got on the microphone to share the surprising Make-a-Wish news with Tyreon in front of the crowded gym.
“Tyreon, it is my honor to let you know that your wish to go on a cruise with your family is being granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation,” said Chacon.
Tyreon’s family, friends and the entire student body gave him a standing ovation, as Make-A-Wish banners lined the gym in his honor.
The blindfold came off. Tyreon looked stunned.
Mark Johnson, his American government teacher, got up to speak.
“He wears all-gold shoes. They fit him. He has a heart of gold, a light inside him,” said Johnson.
Tysean, Tyreon’s brother, gave a heartfelt speech, too.
“I thank God he is here. It has been a humbling experience. I love this man so much,” said Tysean.
Perhaps the best gift of all is that Tyreon has been cancer-free since April 2015. Now, he and his family can sit back and relax and enjoy their cruise to the Caribbean in January. In the future, Tyreon hopes to attend San Diego State University and aspires to be an investment banker.