In front of television cameras and a crowd of cheering fans, Adrian and Declan Reagan became the newest members of the Harlem Wizards.
Adrian donned a Wizards jersey, hat and blinking red glasses as he put pen to paper and signed his first basketball contract. He smiled sheepishly as his classmates cheered the signing, chanting his new team-issued nickname.
“A-Train! Choo-choo! A-Train! Choo-choo! A-Train! Choo-choo!”
Lauren Reagan smiled as her son sat in the spotlight. Snuggled in her arms throughout the signing ceremony was the Harlem Wizard’s other draft choice — Adrian’s twin brother, Declan. After a two-year battle with leukemia, Declan recently began hospice care.
The Harlem Wizards, a traveling basketball performing group, drafted the 6-year-old Vancouver twins during a ceremony at Harmony Elementary School, where Adrian is in kindergarten, on Wednesday morning. A cancer recurrence prevented Declan from starting school with his brother.
Though Declan slept through much of the morning excitement, the experience is one Adrian won’t forget, Reagan said.
Follow Declan Reagan’s journey on Facebook, www.facebook.com/DeclantheDinosaur
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s something that will last a lifetime for him.”
The Harlem Wizards were in town for a Wednesday evening fundraiser to benefit the Harmony Elementary PTA. Katrina Roberts, the PTA president, has followed Declan’s cancer journey through his Facebook page, Declan the Dinosaur, for some time. But it wasn’t until recently that she realized Adrian was a student at Harmony.
After making the connection, Roberts asked the Harlem Wizards for game tickets for the Reagan family. The organization obliged but wanted to do more, said Manu Iyer, of the Harlem Wizards.
The Wizards sent Adrian and Declan care packages full of team swag last week. But Iyer still couldn’t get the boys out of his head.
“I went to the Facebook page, and I was crying and inspired,” he said. “I feel like Declan is a celebration of life. We have to do something.”
After sleeping on it for a few days, Iyer finally decided how to honor the boys: Sign them to the team.
So, through a flurry of text messages and phone calls, Roberts and Iyer organized the signing event. Students filled the library to watch the event, with Adrian’s classmates wearing blue #Reaganstrong T-shirts. The team presented the boys with Harlem Wizards jerseys — their nicknames A-Train and Declan the Dinosaur across the backs — Wizards hats, glasses and contracts to join the team.
“Declan and Adrian embody what it is to be a Wizard,” Iyer said.
Making memories together
Declan was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when he was 4 years old. After six months in the hospital and four rounds of chemotherapy, Declan achieved remission in September 2016.
But in February 2017, the Reagan family learned that not only was Declan’s cancer back, but he had a second type of cancer: T-cell lymphoblast lymphoma.
Declan endured more chemotherapy and underwent a bone marrow transplant in July. For two months following the transplant, Declan was doing well and producing donor cells. But in September, the Reagans learned Declan’s cancer had returned.
Treatment options were limited; Declan had already endured the lifetime limit of one class of chemotherapy drugs and full-body radiation. Doctors tried various drugs and another stem cell transplant, but nothing could keep the cancer at bay. He didn’t qualify for clinical trials.
In January, doctors told the Reagans there was nothing more they could do.
Since then, the family has devoted their days to making memories together.
Make-a-Wish sent the family to Hawaii to visit the Jurassic World movie set. They’ve spent weekends at the beach and at Skamania Lodge. They’ve gone on shopping sprees in toy stores and watched countless movies. They celebrated the twins’ sixth birthdays a couple of weeks ago with a huge birthday bash. And this Friday, barring any setbacks, the family is flying to Disneyland and Universal Studios, thanks to the nonprofit Mascots for a Cure.
The family is doing the best it can, Reagan said, given the circumstances.
Despite Reagan’s best efforts to prepare herself and her family for what’s to come, she couldn’t plan for the evolving state of grief her family is living, Reagan said.
“It’s unimaginable,” she said. “It’s difficult. Nobody wants to lose a child.”
But as the family enters the “darkest days of our lives,” Reagan said they’ve found comfort from the outpouring of love they’ve received not only from the local community, but also the law enforcement family around the world. The boys’ dad, Francis Reagan, is a Washougal police officer.
For two years, thousands of people have followed Declan’s journey — experiencing with the family each diagnosis, treatment, relapse and heartbreak, Lauren Reagan said.
“I think everyone’s heart’s breaking a little more every day,”she said.]