In 2012, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York, a Foundation partner organization, approached Garden of Dreams with a very special wish for 11-year-old Nicolas Perez from Brooklyn, NY. Nicolas wished for a Knicks themed recreation room for him to enjoy with his friends and, most importantly, watch the New York Knicks. The start of a wish quickly became the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between Garden of Dreams, the Knicks and the Perez Family.
Over Nicolas’ three-year fight against brain cancer, which began at 10-years-old, he endured several brain surgeries and many rounds of chemotherapy. While the doctors tried to cure him, basketball became a constant support. Alongside his father and his older brother Xavier, Nicolas watched every Knicks game to cheer on the team and his favorite player, Carmelo Anthony.
Always sporting his “Knicks hat of the day,” Nicolas not only used the Knicks as an outlet, but also to boost his confidence. Instead of his peers focusing on his illness, he became known as the kid with the cool Knicks hats. Identifying with his favorite team, Nicolas gave his best even when he was at his worst and never gave up. Nicolas always held his head high and faced each challenge with a positive attitude and inner strength.
During the transformation of an unfinished basement to Nicolas’ dream recreation room, Garden of Dreams, the New York Knicks and Knicks legend John Starks hosted Nicolas and his family at Madison Square Garden for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a Knicks game. His experience included access to pre-game shoot around, dinner and a shopping spree at the team store.
Shortly after Nicolas’ night out at Madison Square Garden, his wish was granted at his home where Knicks legend John Starks reunited with Nicolas to assist in the ribbon cutting of the unveiling of Nicolas’ brand new Knicks themed room. Surrounded by family and friends, Nicolas took in the freshly painted blue and orange walls, new floor resembling a basketball court, Knicks basketball hoop, branded snack bar and locker room, flat screen television.
From the unveiling forward, the Knicks viewing parties grew from father and sons to a basement full of extended family and friends. Nicolas also had the opportunity to attend Knicks youth summer camps, meet Carmelo Anthony and develop an off-the-court, unbreakable friendship with John Starks.
Nicolas’ mother Elisabeth Perez, shared, “Being part of the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the New York Knicks had meant so much more to Nicolas than just rooting for his favorite team. It was like being welcomed into a large, loving family just at the time when he needed it the most. For a child to go through something as scary and life-changing as battling cancer, one of the greatest gifts that could ever be given to that child is love and happiness, and that is what the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the New York Knicks did for Nicolas and our family.”
On September 1, 2014, Nicolas lost his battle with cancer, but he will always be a part of the Garden of Dreams and New York Knicks family. On December 2, 2014, Nicolas was remembered as an Honorary Knick during the Knicks-Nets ceremonial ball delivery presented center-court by his brother, Xavier.
Once A Knick, Always A Knick