Dozens of children, parents and friends mingled and chatted in Cooper Auditorium, but that all changed when the room’s doors swung open. All eyes turned, and all conversation stopped.
|Tyler Cordova, left, asks a question of Lamar Odom. (Photo by Thomas Brown)|
In stepped Lamar Odom, member of the Los Angeles Lakers championship-winning basketball team, and his wife, reality TV show star Khloe Kardashian. Patients clasped their Lakers calendars, pennants and hats in awe, ready to have them autographed; others held up their mobile phones in a choreographed bid to fill their memory cards with photos.
Odom and Kardashian visited pediatric patients at City of Hope on Nov. 23 as part of Cathy’s Kids, a charity Odom started in 2004 to support cancer research and the efforts of inner-city youth. Odom lost his own mother to stomach cancer.
Within moments, patients and their parents swarmed around the couple, posing for pictures with the Lakers forward. “One, two, three — Lakers!” said Deanna Clark, of Chino, Calif., taking a photo of Odom with her friend’s son, Eddie Ramirez, 11, a City of Hope patient.
Some inpatients even traveled from City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital with their IV poles through the help of pediatrics staff. Odom good-naturedly signed the prosthetic leg of Kristen Tuason, of Lakewood, to the delight of the 18-year-old and her family members.
But few were as truly thrilled as Tyler Cordova, a 7-year-old from Valencia and a big basketball fan.
Although recently out from his hematopoietic cell transplant for lymphoma, Tyler showed no lack of energy when it came to peppering Odom with questions.
|Kristen Tuason shows off her Lamar Odom autograph. (Photo by Thomas Brown)|
“What was your toughest game ever?” he asked, prompting Odom to think back and describe a playoff game against the Boston Celtics. Then Odom asked him one: “Who’s your favorite player?”
Tyler paused for just a moment. “Kobe Bryant,” he responded.
“Oh, yeah, he’s got some amazing moves,” Odom said, recounting a recent shot the Lakers star made from behind the basket.
Tyler’s parents, Holly Traube and Derek Cordova, watched and beamed. “He’s really into basketball,” Traube explained. Although he currently lacks the height of a typical professional basketball player, that does not sway him. He and his father began listing names of players who reached the professional ranks despite short stature.
His mom just shook her head knowingly. “See,” she said, “this is what they do all day.”
Odom invited Tyler and several other kids and young adult inpatients to watch a Lakers game as his guests. He and Kardashian also gave away toys, and Odom autographed several basketballs, which were given away to children through a raffle.
When Tyler’s raffle ticket number was called out, he let out a short squeal. The crowd applauded as he happily picked up his souvenir ball.
For Tyler, after so many tough days, this was a very good one.