Wish Granted For Waipahu Teenager
Nearly 200 people lined the walkway leading up to Dave & Buster’s last week Tuesday awaiting the noon arrival of Tiloi “TeeJay” Mamea Jr.
The red carpet had been rolled out, and the crowd – which extended all the way up the staircase – waved signs with messages like “I love you, TeeJay” and “Welcome, TeeJay.”
Mamea, a 14-year-old boy from Waipahu, was diagnosed with a neoplasm of the brain and decided to forgo treatment. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions, Mamea and his family currently are spending 10 days in American Samoa. Tuesday’s celebration was a sendoff party for Mamea and his family before they flew west the next day.
When Mamea arrived in a limousine, the crowd cheered as he made his way up the red carpet. Mamea’s family and friends were there, as well as a number of people who had never met him.
“We just heard about him from Facebook, and we thought we would come out here and support him,” said Noel Destura, a Waipahu resident who was among the attendees.
Mamea came to Make-A-Wish just three weeks ago, after being diagnosed in March. Mamea selected the trip as his wish because he has never been to Samoa or met his paternal grandfather, who lives there.
“When we sent our volunteers to meet with him, he knew from the moment that we walked in that he wanted to go to American Samoa to be with his family and just to have that time together,” said Make-A-Wish CEO Siana Hunt. “This is a tender time for him and his family to be together … We’re happy that he can kind of soak it all in, and really slow down and relax and take that moment to really connect with his family.
“It was exciting to see all of them (the whole family) be able to participate in his wish,” Hunt said, adding that the large family (Mamea is one of eight children) is very tight-knit.
The degree of support at Tuesday’s event was indicative of the kind of community involvement that has been present since Mamea’s story broke to the media last month – which included mention of his bucket list of things he wants to do with the time he has left.
“Our phone was ringing off the hook,” Hunt said, “with the public calling in to say, ‘What are we doing for TeeJay, how can we support him?'”
As a result of the community involvement, Mamea already has been able to tackle several items on his bucket list – including a day at Fun Factory and a trip to Disneyland.
These activities were not sponsored by Make-A-Wish and have instead happened purely from individuals and organizations stepping up to help.
“The whole community has been really supportive and more than willing to donate their time and money, and just their love and their well-wishes, for TeeJay and his family,” said Make-A-Wish board member Lee Tokuhara.
“The public outpouring of aloha and goodwill for TeeJay has been overwhelming,” Hunt said, adding that another example of it occurred at the sendoff party, when a taxi driver approached Hunt with an envelope full of money.
“His wife and his daughter had heard the story of TeeJay while they were driving home, and they just went door to door and collected money from their neighbors,” Hunt explained. The driver told Hunt that he and his family don’t have much, but that they were touched by TeeJay’s wish and wanted to help in whatever way they could.
The Mamea family, too, is overwhelmed by the amount of public support they have received, explained Jocelyn Mamea, Mamea’s mother.
“I want to thank Make-A-Wish for everything, for fulfilling his wish,” she said.
To find ways to support TeeJay Mamea and other keiki, visit hawaii.wish.org.