Airmen help with boy's 'off the wall' wish
By Airman 1st Class Amber Carter, 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 17, 2014
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "You wanna be tough, better do what you can, so beat it," blared over the sound system Aug. 24 at the Tucker Farm Center in Calistoga, California, in preparation for a blast-from-the-past party for 4-year-old Marlon Valentine, Michael Jackson fanatic and Make-A-Wish recipient.
Airmen from Travis Air Force Base were on hand to help make Marlon's wish into a reality. Marlon has acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
He is known at the Children's Hospital Oakland as the "Michael Jackson boy" because he and his brother, Ivan, 3, and sister, Angelina, 8, would dance to Jackson's music during his hospital visits, said Jennifer Wilson, Make-a-Wish marketing and promotions manager.
"When Marlon was asked about his wish, he replied without hesitation, saying he wanted a Michael Jackson themed party," Wilson said.
For the past two months, approximately 40 people, including military members, attended dance practices inside a Travis Air Force Base hangar to help Marlon's wish come true.
"The practices were around two hours long every Sunday," said Airman 1st Class Vincent Dahilog, 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment apprentice. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth it because it was for a good cause."
Choreographed dances to songs such as "Beat It" and "Thriller" were the highlights of the party. There was a decorate-a-cookie table with Jackson's iconic glove-shaped cookies, a table with individual bags filled with popcorn playfully labeled "King of Pop" and Marlon had his own personalized chair.
"At first he was shocked," said Melissa Trujillo, Marlon's mom. "I told him we were going to take pictures and when we walked in and he saw his family and the decorations, he was surprised.
He's obsessed with Michael Jackson. We had to replace his Michael Jackson Wii game twice because he plays it so much."
The "King of Pop" led the dances. Burgess Griffin, a Michael Jackson impersonator, would drive from his home in Sacramento to Travis once a week to teach choreography to the volunteers.
"I'm really grateful and appreciative of the amount of effort that went into this party," Trujillo said. "Marlon is having a great time and I can't thank everyone enough."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation partnered with Travis to bring hope and encourage Marlon to fight leukemia and "beat it."
"It has truly been an honor to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation," said Tech. Sgt. Shanta Glover, 60th Air Mobility Wing equal opportunity. "It's a great opportunity to give back to our community and I think parents would do anything to see their kids smile."
Military members across a broad spectrum of backgrounds participated. Enlisted, officers, reservists and retirees all played a role in the success of the event.
"It was great to see the military members come out and put so much into it to make Marlon's day special," said Jan Hammond, Travis event coordinator. "This was an all-volunteer event and it was all for Marlon."