DECEMBER 27, 2006
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Two years ago, a group called Faith Basketball tied up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to raise funds to make dying 19-year-old indigent Philippine General Hospital (PGH) patient Jay-R Mingaoís dream come true.

Jay-R, a cage fan like the student volunteers who make up Faith Basketball, suffered from rheumatic heart disease and was bed-ridden for several years. He lived inside the Himlayang Palanyag, a ParaŮaque public cemetery, and because of his affliction, had to give up playing the sport he loved as a kid.

Mikko Abello, Faith Basketballís prime mover, found out about Jay-R during a visit to PGH.

"We were taking care of a kidís wish with the Make-A-Wish Foundation when we learned about Jay-R and his wish for a basketball court," he said. "He couldíve wished anything for himself but he chose to wish something for others. He wanted a court near where he lives for kids to play on. Several kids in his neighborhood were into drugs and he saw in basketball a way out of drugs. Because of his condition, he couldnít play anymore but he wanted a court for others."

Jay-Rís dream became Faith Basketballís rallying cry. The group that preaches the gospel of praying and playing was determined to make his dying wish come true.

Talking to Jay-R, Mikko learned about his other wish ó to meet his hero Asi Taulava. Jay-R was a big Talk ĎNí Text fan and idolized Taulava.

So Faith Basketball organized a benefit game between the Phone Pals and Ginebra San Miguel at the Adidas Sports Kamp in the Fort in September 2004. The exhibition was a huge success as players from both teams came in full force. Eric Menk was in the injured list at the time but showed up just the same. Also in attendance were Talk ĎNí Text team owner Manny Pangilinan and Henry Cojuangco.

The game raised about P200,000 and got the project of constructing a court going.

Mikko arranged for Taulava to visit Jay-R and the Phone Pals center took time out to cheer him up. It was Jay-Rís happiest day in his life as he came face-to-face with his idol. Jay-Rís family wasnít wealthy but was rich with friends. His father, known as "Daddy" in the neighborhood, was a barangay tanod and his mother Mely kept house. As a kid, Jay-R dreamed of growing up to be a citizen who could make a difference in his community. When he was incapacitated, he never gave up on his dream. What he couldnít do on his own, he did through others. And Faith Basketball was his partner in keeping his dream alive.

Jay-R passed away on Jan. 10, 2005, but that didnít stop Mikko and his friends from pursuing their crusade.

Mikko explained that under the guidelines of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a personís wish is forfeited once he dies. Even without the Foundationís support, Mikko didnít lose faith. His group raised some P100,000 more to finish the project.

"Unfortunately, it took two years to complete the court," said Mikko. "The court was on public property and we had to overcome local politics to get the job done. We were lucky that Congressman (Ed) Zialcita was on our side. He helped us with the project."

Last week, the court was inaugurated at Tramo Dos, ParaŮaque.

"After two years of hard work and prayer, Jay-Rís dying wish finally came true," said Mikko.

Thereís still some work to be done, like installing the lights. But the cemented court and the roll-on, roll-off goals made by Blue Torch are now being used by Jay-Rís neighbors.

"We dedicated the court to Jay-R," said Mikko. "We have Congressman Zialcita, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Chito Sobrepena of the MetroBank Foundation, Talk ĎNí Text and Ginebra San Miguel to thank for making it happen. Weíll keep Jay-Rís memory alive by holding league games at Tramo Dos. Itís not just about Jay-R and his dream. Itís also about keeping the faith, trusting in the Lord and making dreams come true."

Christmas Day was a lot more significant this year for Mikko and Faith Basketball with Jay-Rís dream finally coming true. Up there in heaven, Jay-R is smiling and probably playing hoops with the angels.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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