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Up until December 2016, Keannu was a 4.0 student and a star athlete both in wrestling and football, where he was a quarterback for the Lathrop High Spartans. After experiencing some serious health issues including symptoms of what appeared to a be a concussion, his parents Alec and Yesenia Linnell, took him to various doctors to figure out what was going on with their son. Finally, taking him to the ER after symptoms increased dramatically, Keannu was diagnosed with a Germ Cell tumor.
During surgery to relieve hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain, Keannu suffered a stroke. He then started a two-week course of chemotherapy and another surgery to remove the tumor. While the surgery was successful, Keannu did not wake up from a coma for several weeks.
Although Keannu is on the slow road to recovery, he is bound to a wheelchair currently and suffers short term memory loss. He was referred to Make-A-Wish last year and when Keannu came to visit the Wishing Place in Sacramento to start his wish journey, it was very apparent that his one true wish is to play football again with his team.
“It is always our strongest desire to meet every child’s expectations when it comes to granting their wish,” said Make-A-Wish® President and CEO Jennifer Stolo. “Although on the surface this seemed impossible, we will leave no stone unturned when it comes to granting a wish, and immediately started exploring the idea of granting Keannu’s wish through virtual reality. Keannu will have his wish … virtually. We have partnered with his school Lathrop High School, Manteca Unified School District and an international Virtual Reality company emergeStudios to create this virtual experience for Keannu."
"Upon learning of Keannu's remarkable journey, we jumped at the opportunity to help Make-A-Wish get Keannu suited up and back to the football field – Virtually,” said emergeStudios Founder and CEO David Walsh. “By utilizing specialized 360° cameras and microphones, we are recreating a football game staring Keannu as Quarterback."
See what Keannu saw by watching the VR experience! For best experience, view on a mobile device or on Google Chrome
Many months of planning went into planning Keannu’s wish experience. The community of Lathrop and Lathrop High School students gathered twice; once to film the virtual reality clip Keannu would experience and again a week later to reveal the wish to Keannu.
The crowd waited in hushed anticipation as his sister led him onto the track and field, blind folded before a, followed in reverence by his team mates. He entered a darkened cube in the middle of the field where the VR headset were put on him.
The sequence showed him, his coach and teammates, encouraging him to rally like the true all-star he is, and battle his illness with all he has. The sequence then lead him back onto the field and he began playing football.
He experienced throwing a scoring pass one more time, the first since he fell ill. The crowd around him began to cheer in unison with the film and the walls were dropped. Keannu was surrounded by his team mates, his family, his community.
This wish proved that even the impossible can be granted with dedication and perseverance.
How did we make the impossible, possible? Check out the Behind-the-Scenes feature below!
You too have the power to help make a child's life-changing wish come true! No matter how big or small, each contribution of time or money goes a long way into granting wishes for critically ill children in our community. Learn how you can donate your money, time or help fundraise for Make-A-Wish by visiting our Ways To Help page.
To check out more photos of Keannu during his wish, visit our Flickr page.