SOUTH JORDAN, Utah - A little over a year ago, a special little boy with a rare blood disease got to meet one of his heroes, Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman. As part of his Make-a-Wish dream he got to spend some time on the field with the team at the end of a training session, was able to hang out with the guys in the locker room, and escorted Beckerman onto the field for a match where he received his own “ring” commemorating RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup Championship.
Now Jonah Gomez is in need of something more than a day of fun, and a day of memories – he needs a bone marrow transplant. And once again the soccer community has responded as they did with Marcia Williams, wife of RSL midfielder Andy Williams, who was also in need of a bone marrow match a couple of years ago. This past Saturday there were bone marrow donor drives held across the league, and also at the Gold Cup final held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Check out www.getswabbed.org if you would like to register – all it takes is a quick cheek swab.
However, in addition to the bone marrow drive, a big surprise awaits the Gomez family this week as the bus from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition rolled into town last week, and will be set to reveal to the family a new home in the Daybreak community due west of Rio Tinto Stadium where Jonah’s favorite team plays. The project is a joint effort involving the popular ABC television show, but also relies on donated land and resources by Rio Tinto, and local contractor Holmes Homes who has taken the lead on building the structure. The home will replace the current 450 square foot house in which Jonah, his mother Jessica and sister Ellie currently reside.
Those who follow the show know that one of its features is that the family is also whisked away for a week to have some fun and relaxation while crews work around the clock to bring the project together, culminating in a surprising "reveal" when the family returns. In this case, the Gomez family has spent the week in California which included a visit to Disneyland, and a special treat – tickets to the Gold Cup final for the US/Mexico match.
Hip hop artist, turned actor, turned vehicle customizer – Xzibit – who has been involved with the show as a designer over the last two seasons, accompanied young Jonah to this match.
“I don’t know much about soccer,” admitted Xzibit. “But I must say that when I went to my first soccer match in California just a couple of days ago – US versus Mexico – now that was crazy. I got pictures standing next to the actual Gold Cup.”
The designer who has an over-the-top personality was clearly touched by the time he spent with Jonah.
“He’s a special kid,” said the rapper. “I think he has a lot of energy and spirit. I wouldn’t be able to tell looking from the outside-in that he has any kind of sickness, but he works through it. They are very positive about it. This couldn’t have happened at a better time for a better bunch of people.”
Being in this environment is vastly different for the artist than hanging out on a movie set or on a concert stage. “When I came out here I thought I’d never be able to meet a guy who just does grout for a living. I’d never be able to work side-by-side with guys who swing hammers, and lay concrete. I’m around people who demand water at a certain temperature. This is a different type of environment for me – there are no body guards, there is no entourage. This is doing something positive for someone else. That’s why I’m here.”
Those altruistic feelings of doing something to help out other human beings in need aren’t reserved for stars like Xzibit and the other designers on the show. He has seen the same drive in all of the volunteers, which are expected to number around 2,400 people by the time the project is complete.
“I think that deep down everybody wants to help someone else. It’s just that you don’t always get the opportunity to see your actions so readily. Within a seven day period, the house is up. The family comes home from nothing, to something. It makes you feel good. And so people want to be part of that.”
The “reveal” for the house is expected to occur on Wednesday, although the show will not air on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition until September or October of this year.