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Feb. 18, 2020

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‘Declan the Dinosaur’ focus of emotional tribute

Vancouver boy, 6, lost his fight with cancer in May 2018; Harlem Wizards retire his jersey

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
7 Photos
Lauren Reagan, front, is comforted by Copper Long, a family friend, while the jersey of her late son Declan Reagan is presented prior to a Harlem Wizards game at Union High School. The ceremony honored Declan, know as Declan the Dinosaur, who was an honorary draft pick of the Wizards last year. Declan died in May 2018 at age 6 after fighting multiple cancers.
Lauren Reagan, front, is comforted by Copper Long, a family friend, while the jersey of her late son Declan Reagan is presented prior to a Harlem Wizards game at Union High School. The ceremony honored Declan, know as Declan the Dinosaur, who was an honorary draft pick of the Wizards last year. Declan died in May 2018 at age 6 after fighting multiple cancers. Photo Gallery

The lights went out. The jersey descended. Lauren Reagan cried.

“Tonight is a very special night,” said Eric Jones, a member of the Harlem Wizards, a barnstorming basketball team.

After the kids waited in line for autographs, and the Wizards went through their pregame dunk routine, all that was left was the pregame ceremony at Thursday night’s Harlem Wizards game at Union High School. The fundraiser for the Harmony Elementary School PTA and the Burnt Bridge Creek Elementary School PTO honored Declan Reagan, who died in May 2018 after battling multiple cancers.

Hours earlier, Katrina Roberts, the Harmony Elementary School PTA president, and Manu Iyer, who works in the Wizards’ front office, hung a miniature Wizards jersey in the high school gym.

At 6:30, after the crowd filed in, the Wizards’ pageantry paused, the gym lights were turned off, and a large light was illuminated, with the jersey suspended below it. The jersey bore the numeral 1 and “Declan The Dinosaur.”

The jersey was then lowered until it was just a few feet above the ground. With the gym lights off, Jones shared sentiments about Declan’s impact on the Clark County community and the Wizards.

If You Go

• What: The Harlem Wizards.

• When: Doors at 5 p.m., game at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4.

• Where: Clark College’s O’Connell Sports Center, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

• Tickets: HarlemWizards.com/schedule-tickets

• More information: Proceeds from the game benefit the Declan the Dinosaur Foundation.

“Declan fought the good fight,” he said.

Declan’s mother was kept in the dark about the ceremony beforehand. Once the jersey had been lowered and raised again, Reagan wiped away tears and was enveloped in hugs from friends.

“The community still, even a year later, remembers Declan and all of the good that has come from him,” Lauren said after the ceremony.

“It’s really cool to see how many people he inspired.”

Declan, who was nicknamed Declan the Dinosaur for his love of the prehistoric beasts, was only 6 when he died. But Thursday night, it felt like he lived much longer.

“What Declan has taught us is appreciating life,” Iyer said. “He was 6 years old and he got to check off everything on his bucket list. He lived in six years more than people do their whole lives. You’ve got to really appreciate the gift of life. It can be taken away at any moment.”

Last year Declan was “drafted” by the Wizards and signed to a contract with the team, alongside his identical twin brother Adrian, who attended Thursday’s game, and was also moved by the moment, Lauren Reagan said.

15 Photos
Kaden Butler, 7, cheers for the Harlem Wizards during a game at Union High School on Thursday night, May 2, 2019. (Nathan Howard/The Columbian)
Gallery: Harlem Wizards at Union High Photo Gallery

“He was able to look up at his jersey,” Reagan said, “and he was able to look up at his brother’s name and see how special it is.”

At 6 p.m. today, the Wizards will play a game at Clark College in support of the Declan the Dinosaur Foundation, which was created in Declan’s honor to financially support families with kids who have cancer.

Reagan remembers Declan spending 254 nights in the hospital over 18 months, and how the family also spent about $250 on pizza one month because Declan needed to eat and it’s all he wanted. She said she knows how expenses, beyond just medical bills, can pile up when a child has cancer.

“I think a lot of people initially, when you find out someone is sick, you’re there,” Reagan said. “But a lot of these cancer journeys are three-plus years. So you might have that initial support in the beginning, but as it goes on those bills start to accumulate.”

A tight bond

The Wizards have developed a close relationship with the Reagans since they drafted Declan and Adrian. A couple of Wizards players flew out for Declan’s memorial service last year, and the team stays in touch with the family, even video conferencing with Lauren Reagan over the summer when they were planning their current tour.

“These guys have just become this involved part of our lives and our story,” Reagan said. “They got to meet Declan and have time with us. To see that my 6-year-old made such an impact on these adults and this whole (organization), it’s just really emotional.”

From now on, Declan’s jersey will hang from the ceiling at Union High School whenever the Wizards play there.

“It’s fitting he’s above, looking down,” Iyer said. “Now he’s looking after us.”

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