Junior Raul Morales fulfills his dream of meeting the LA Kings
His legs trembled as he walked onto the Staples Center, the gray and black LA Kings jersey on his back and a black puck in hand, thousands of eyes on him. Out on the ice and in the spotlight, junior Raul Morales’s smile shone above his blue Make A Wish button tacked onto his jersey.
LA Kings center-man Anže Kopitar and left wing player Taylor Hall circled and hovered in. At the ref’s sign, Morales dropped the puck in the ceremonial start with anxiety and exhilaration.
“I always dreamt some day I’d go pro, someday I’d be out on the ice with them, but I never thought at 17 I’d be up there with them,” Morales said.
Morales has been skating since fourth grade, and he plays with the North County Wolverines but still has time to work with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, volunteer at St. Rose of Lima teaching a catechism class, and help out with the church’s confirmation program on Sundays.
“[Religion] is probably the biggest thing in my life. Without it I don’t know where I would be and if I would even be here. It just makes me feel like I always have Him [God] by me because of how much I feel I have been blessed and looked out for,” Morales said.
Morales and his family spent a surreal three days with his favorite player and the team in Los Angeles where they enjoyed a day at Universal Studios and stayed in a hotel on the Citywalk with limousine service.
His trip was the first Paso Robles award from Make A Wish Foundation. He was diagnosed with a Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, ten days after his birth. As an infant, Morales was being treated for a lung issue when the doctor discovered two damaged kidneys. The left kidney was lost not long after and his right kidney was only a little healthier– just enough to survive. The doctors told Morales’s parents that eventually he was going to need a transplant or dialysis. Dialysis would help remove waste from the body and help out the kidney with its bodily function by either using an artificial kidney or installing a catheter into the abdomen. At 12 years old, the time for a new kidney was drawing closer as Morales began experiencing problems with his kidneys that would drag him to the hospital and keep him there for days on end as his kidney became infected.
“It was normal for him [not to have symptoms] until middle school when he got very bad fever due to a urinary tract infection and the kidney was not doing it’s job 100 percent,” said Morales’s mother Margarita Ramirez, “It was the second time he was hospitalized, and we realized that time for a transplant or dialysis was getting closer.”
Four years later, on March 19, 2015, Morales recieved a new kidney from his father.
Then a family riend who volunteers for Make A Wish encouraged Ramirez to apply Morales for the program and share his story. The organization checked with Stanford Hospital about his condition. His wish was to see a LA Kings game live, but he got more than he bargained.
He stood on the ice next to Kopitar one year later.
“He became my favorite player because he has been on my favorite team since I started watching hockey and I just loved his style of play. He is a good sportsman but also played as a rough and elite player,” Morales said.
The L.A. trip started off with a limousine ride 197 miles down south to their hotel. They spent the day walking up and down the City Walk with his Make A Wish button and family.
“Whenever a store would see [the badge] they would give us stuff. For example, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, we finished eating, the manager came out and he talked to us and said it was on him,” Morales said.
That same night they got a call from a Make A Wish representative to be ready by 8 am the next morning with no specifics, just that they were to attend a Kings game. The following day the family received a private lunch in the best seats in the sports stadium. After they received jerseys and L.A. Kings gear, Morales was taken down by a worker for the L.A. Kings to watch them warm up and sit with them on the bench.
“We met the representative; he told us we were going down to the Staples Center, but it was really early and the game started at about seven or something,” Morales said. “ After the game I got to go into the locker room with my favorite player, Anže Kopitar, and [he] gave me a tour. They gave me my own slot to sit in where the players will dress up for the game with my name on it.”
The slot boasted the name R. Morales in black and white with the Kings logo plastered on both sides.
On day two, a representative from the Make A Wish took the family 15 miles from the Staples Center to the Toyota Center in El Segundo, where the Kings conduct practice. It didn’t take long before Kopitar and retired hockey player Daryl Evans geared Morales up and treated him to a private practice session. After the practice, the family was escorted to the dining area to have breakfast with the team.
“I’m very happy about everything that has happened this past month. It’s been really awesome to have your wish granted,” Morales said, “Playing for the Kings would be my ultimate goal. But I think that it would make me even happier if someday I could make kids smile and look up to me just like I look up to Kopitar.”