The Laker For A Day program recognizes UCLA Health patients who face serious illnesses with courage, strength and determination. Laker For A Day participants, selected by UCLA Health, receive a behind-the-scenes experience of a Lakers game at Staples Center and on-court recognition that provides a heartwarming moment.
They say every dog has his day but only two dogs can say they’ve been Lakers for a Day. Harlow, a Golden Retriever/Lab mix, and Pierre, a French Bull Dog, received the honor in recognition of the UCLA People-Animal Connection (PAC).
Not all wounds are visible. For Yolanda Poullard, a retired U.S. Army Major, the injury was to her spirit and her mental well-being. Fortunately, she had the support of UCLA Health Operation Mend.
Willow Crisostomo’s middle name, Lux, means light in Latin. At five years old, she is a bright light of smiles, love and curiosity. When Willow was born she weighed just 14 ounces, about the same as a football.
As he posed for a family photo near half court of the UCLA Health Training Center, one of Donovan’s favorite players walked up behind him.
“Which one of you is Donovan?” asked Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
“You can have all the money in the world. You can have all the things in the world – all the fancy cars, all the homes. But if you ain’t got health, you don’t have nothing."
Nigel has come a long way in the last three years to become the strong 10-year-old he is today. When asked how he processed his diagnosis, Nigel said, “I just try to be positive all the time and stay happy.”
Wrapped in bandages, Joey Paulk woke up at a military hospital more than two weeks after he nearly burned to death in Afghanistan. He saw his mother crying by his bedside, then began asking questions.
The epileptic seizures would come on so strong and so frequently – as many as 40 an hour – that Gio's parents lived in “absolute fear” every time the attacks began. They worried constantly about the toll the seizures were taking on their 4-year-old son and wondered whether a cure would ever come. What gave them comfort was the resilience and fortitude Gio often showed. He would tell his father: “I have epilepsy, I’m not epilepsy.”
Brian had been watching his dad, Dana, 69, slowly deteriorate from end stage kidney disease for more than two years. His father endured daily, 12-hour dialysis treatments while he waited for a deceased kidney donor. Brian and his wife, Roxie, started seriously discussing the idea of Brian donating a kidney to his dad.
When he was 8 years old, Kenny lost a significant amount of weight, developed a constant cough and struggled sleeping. His family took him to the emergency department searching for an answer, which came following an X-ray of Kenny’s chest.
Malisa was at the movies, just a few weeks away from giving birth to her first child, when she felt a sudden pain in her chest. She sought an evaluation from a cardiologist, who told her she had a life-threatening tear in her aorta. Malisa, who lives about 80 miles from Los Angeles, was immediately airlifted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Nearly five years after her initial diagnosis, Lila thought her cancer was long gone. She had everything but her plane ticket booked for a dream climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro when results from a routine blood draw put plans of scaling Africa’s highest peak on hold.
Jonathan stood on the hardwood floor at Staples Center, swishing shots at the same basket where Laker legends have delivered many awe-inspiring performances.
For Jonathan, an entertainment executive who received a hand transplant at UCLA six months earlier, this was a made-for-TV moment even he couldn’t script.
Jamil was told he had 17 months to live. That was five years ago.
Today, thanks to doctors at the UCLA Brain Tumor Center, Jamil is healthy and taking in all that life has to offer including attending a Lakers game.
Julian says he has never let cancer stop him from doing anything. So, as a lifelong Lakers fan, of course nothing would prevent him from enjoying a behind-the-scenes game experience as the UCLA Health Laker for a Day.
In many ways, Walter looked like any other father chasing his two young daughters around the court before a recent Lakers game. Except Walter's life started out anything but normal.
Dawn wanted nothing more than to soothe the suffering of a stranger. Touched by an article she read about living kidney donations, Dawn decided to take action with a selfless and life-saving act of her own.
Lakers fans, meet Sarai: A brave and fun-loving 15-year-old who has spent a lifetime battling the complications of a spina bifida diagnosis, including kidney disease.