Remembering Teejay: Hope lives on in the courts

Playing for hope

Hope lives on in the courts as Spike for Hope carries on after losing its founder, Teejay Cruz, to cancer last year. Over 80 players from 11 teams played volleyball to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Philippines last Sunday, October 20, at the De La Salle Zobel Sports Pavilion.

“After we lost Teejay, I honestly didn’t know if there would still be another league after our fifth run last April 2018. One day, as I was following #SpikeForHope on Instagram, I saw a post from Jeff Garma, who promised Teejay that there will be a tournament this year. I reposted it then Cris Roxas got in touch with me. The next thing I knew, we had a Messenger group with Ysh Lindo and we were arranging to meet up. We’d like to believe that Teejay is still helping us from above — orchestrating how to put together a team to help with the games, with sponsorships, and with kids’ activities. We were once strangers who are now forever bound by our love for Teejay and the legacy that he left — his passion for helping sick children,” said Abigail Arcangel, trustee of Make-A-Wish Philippines, and Cruz’ partner in organizing the first Spike for Hope in January 2016.

“He never forgot about the wish kids. Even when he was in the hospital, he kept on thinking about the children and how he could reach out to them,” attested Lynn and Tirso “Pip” Cruz III, parents of Teejay.

“We promised our son to continue helping the children. Last February, we brought wish kids to Enchanted Kingdom. Next year, we promise a bigger Spike for Hope,” added Pip.

Deeper purpose

Staying true to its tradition, Spike for Hope not just organized games but also staged a short program with inspirational messages, testimonials from wish kids and videos that would help the players understand the mission of Make-A-Wish Philippines, an affiliate of Make-A-Wish International, the largest wish-granting organization in the world.

“Teejay really wanted the participants to take into heart that they were there not just to play for themselves and their teams but to help raise funds and awareness to grant wishes of children with critical illnesses to give them hope, strength and joy when they need it the most,” said Arcangel.

Kathrine Nombrado, whose wish to meet Pia Wurtzbach and watch Miss Universe was granted in 2017, narrated how her wish-come-true brought so much happiness while fighting leukemia. She has volunteered at Spike for Hope Season 4 and continues to inspire other wish kids and volunteers.

Moving in faith

The attendees gathered in a group huddle as Pip prayed oved the wish kids and players, like he did in the previous seasons.

The additional surprise this year was the “Every Praise” group dance – “Teejay always wanted a flash mob and now, it’s here,” said Roxas.

Pip explained that when his son was sick, he always listened to the song and started choreographing a dance. Lynn took a video of her son, who was getting weak from the illness yet still eager to dance in worship. When he passed away, Teejay’s cousin Rayver Cruz finished the choreography that Teejay has started, and their family performed “Every Praise” at his wake. Since then, the family has danced it with wish kids and has received other invites to perform the memorable dance.

Led by Pip, the volleyball players excitedly agreed and danced in front of the wish kids and their families.

“I cried while dancing to what Teejay created,” Lindo admitted.

Making wishes come true

Zouie, 12, battling with bone cancer, was one of the kids whose one-true-wish came true through Spike for Hope. She wished for a calligraphy set as she wanted to learn a skill that she could use even when confined to a wheelchair after her leg was amputated. She could not believe she received so many colors and types of pens and she excitedly started using her tools, showing the volunteers her work, a lettering of “Thank you, make a wish.”

Corrinne, 5, diagnosed with leukemia, wished to have doctor kit toys. She started playing with the toy stethoscope, using it on a volunteer, saying she wanted to cure people.

Aleah Ortiz, Executive Director of the Foundation, said, “If we can make them forget their sickness even for a brief moment, we’ve done our job. The beautiful thing is that brief moment can last a lifetime and the wish kids never forget that turning point when their wish came true, giving them hope and strength to believe and continue fighting their illness.”

Aside from making their wishes come true that day, art activities and storytelling sessions were conducted by Lindo, who has volunteered in two other seasons of the league.

The organizers planned to make ten wishes come true at the tournament but only five children were well enough to attend that day. Other grants will be organized for them.


Teejay’s legacy

Garma, who took charge of the games and hosted the program, quipped, “I felt like Teejay for a day. This is for you!”

Spike for Hope was intentionally scheduled on the weekend before Teejay would have turned 38. At the tournament, the attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to celebrate his first birthday in heaven.

The day was absolutely filled with fun, fellowship, hope, laughter and ‘happy tears’ – just the way Teejay would have liked it.

“Our bodies may be tired but our hearts are happy and full,” said Jonathan Ladera, a player from UP Med Aces Team shared after the event.

Jhanno Isip, who played with Team Super Tops, posted on social media — “Joining this league helped us how to live our life purposeful.”
Ana Chua, President of Make-A-Wish Philippines, thanked everyone who supported the league. She acknowledged the organizers, sponsors, players, the Cruz family, and especially thanked Teejay for founding Spike for Hope.

He used to say, “It’s not just about granting wishes but giving children one of their greatest adventures. It’s also time to remind the grown-ups that there’s always a kid in us.”

Truly, the spirit, passion and legacy of Teejay touched everyone that day, and will continue to do so in the next Spike for Hope seasons to come.

About Spike for Hope
Spike for Hope started out as a passion project of Teejay Cruz and Abigail Arcangel, who shared the bond of having parents battle with cancer. Cruz was the first volunteer to organize a volleyball league to raise funds and awareness for Make-A-Wish Philippines, where Arcangel volunteered. Cruz truly believed in, loved and embraced the mission of the foundation to transform lives of children, one wish at a time.

Since 2016, Spike for Hope has finished six seasons and has granted over 70 wishes of children with critical illnesses.

For more information about upcoming tournaments, follow Spike for Hope on Facebook.

About Make-A-Wish® Philippines
Make-A-Wish Philippines is the first and only non-profit wish-granting foundation in the country and an affiliate of Make-A-Wish® International, the largest wish-granting organization in the world. The Foundation grants the wishes of children with critical illnesses to transform their lives with hope, strength and joy.

When children are battling a critical illness, so much of normal childhood is taken away from them — it is exhausting, both emotionally and physically. A wish is something that gives children the opportunity to look outside their illness — it restores a sense of childhood back to the child and normalcy back to the family. Research shows, and physicians agree, that wishes can help improve a child’s quality of life and produce better health outcomes.
Since 2000, Make-A-Wish Philippines has granted over 3,000 life-changing wishes in the country.

For more about Make-A-Wish Foundation Philippines, visit www.makeawish.org.ph and follow Make-A-Wish Philippines on Facebook/Instagram @makeawishph on Twitter






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