Young Heroes

Brandon Ito

by Takeshi Nakayama, Rafu Shimpo writer from Los Angeles, CA

Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts --Cicero 106BC-43BC
Brandon and his family with Tiger Woods
Brandon and his family with Tiger Woods

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

That describes Brandon Ito, who has been down but never out.

The 14-years-old athlete, hospitalized from May to July of last year with acute myelogenous leukemia, didn't just lie around in his room feeling sorry for himself.

After watching golf on television for those three months at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, Brandon decided he would like to take up golf after he got better.

So, when someone from the Make-A-Wish Foundation - the charitable organization that arranges to grant wishes to seriously ill children - visited and asked him to submit a wish, he asked for the chance to meet Tiger Woods and receive golf lessons from the world's top professional golfer.

Brandon, who never really played golf before, got the urge to play while he was hospitalized. "I used to watch golf on TV and saw Tiger Woods a lot. So I asked to meet Tiger and get lessons," he explained.

Brandon, the son of John and Donna Ito of East Los Angeles, underwent a bone marrow transplant from his mother in November. A few months later, he learned from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that his wish to meet Tiger Woods had been granted.

Then, he received a telephone call from the Tiger Woods Foundation in May inviting him to a golf clinic in Colorado.

On June 4, a limousine came to pick up Brandon, younger brother Jared, 11, and his parents, and took them to the airport. They were flown to Denver by the Make-A-Wish Foundation so that Brandon could participate in the Tiger Woods Foundation golf clinic for youngsters.

Arriving in Denver, the Ito family were taken to a golf course in Denver, where Woods met privately with them. Before the clinic commenced, Woods chatted with Brandon and showed the youngster his trick golf shots.

"I couldn’t wait to meet Tiger, and I was kinda nervous at first. But once he started talking to me, I got more comfortable," said Brandon.

He recalled that meeting Tiger Woods was "really fun. I didn't think I would meet him personally. We talked about what activities I did, why I chose him."

"He's a really nice guy," Brandon added. "He showed me the tricks he does on the TV commercial, bouncing the golf ball off his club and all that stuff. I didn't expect that."

"It was great," said Donna Ito. "We never thought we would talk to Tiger for any length of time. Brandon was amazed. They had a clinic afterwards with a couple of hundred kids. Brandon was in the group of kids who got help one-on-one from Tiger."

Brandon Ito
Brandon Ito

Brandon commented that he learned a lot from those lessons from Woods. "He helped me with my swing. After that, I hit the ball a lot better. I had never been on a golf course before, just on a driving range. Now, after the lessons, I've played on a golf course twice."

Following the clinic, the Ito family was invited to the house of the publisher of the Denver Post, where they had a dinner and auctioned off autographed items from Woods and players from the Denver Broncos football team and the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

While they were at the publisher's house, Woods invited Brandon and Jared to watch TV with him in the den as the Lakers beat the Portland Trailblazers to win the Western Conference finals of the NBA playoffs.

"It was fun, it was great fun," Brandon said, "I think he's a real nice guy. Sometimes he still acts like a kid, like a teenager."

Brandon, whose leukemia is now in remission, has been back in school since April. He finished his studies at Macy Intermediate School in June and is now attending summer school classes at Schurr High School in nearby Montebello. He was out of school almost a year, although he had home schooling.

Until now, his favorite sport had been basketball - the 5-foot-4 point guard for the Tigers Magic team in the Community Youth Council (CYC) has been playing since he was 7-year-old. He also earned a spot on the Yonsei team that will be going to Japan in August.

Brandon said he might go out for the Schurr High basketball team, but added that he is thinking of trying for the school's golf team. "I'm starting to like golf more than basketball. . . I'm going to take up golf seriously now."

"It's been a rough year for the whole family," said Donna Ito. "Now everything is getting back to normal. Brandon seems to be doing real well."

(Originally published on July 12, 2000)

Page created on 7/28/2005 12:15:06 AM

Last edited 7/28/2005 12:15:06 AM

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Rafu Shimpo Newspaper - Article reprint courtesy of Rafu Shimpo, a popular Japanese American newspaper based in Los Angeles, CA, USA,
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