A member of the Del Valle High School marching band drumline since his freshman year, 17-year-old Stephen was always on the go when it came to his love for music and the camaraderie of his bandmates.
In middle school, Stephen was diagnosed with a blood disorder and now, as a senior in high school, is currently battling two very aggressive tumors. But Stephen's not going to let that stand in the way of his high school experience and his devotion to the drumline.
When Make-A-Wish® volunteers asked Stephen what his one true wish would be, he surprised his family, friends and the entire community with something extraordinary.
Stephen decided to give back to something that meant so much to him by wishing for new equipment for the drumline and front ensemble.
"I'm close to everybody in the band, but the drumline and the front ensemble, those kids are my brothers and sisters and there's nothing I wouldn't do for them," he said. "They are a family away from my family. They are always there and we pick each other up when we're down. Yes, we rag on each other but there isn't anything we wouldn't do for each other."
With Stephen standing on the 50 yard line during the usual halftime performance at a home varsity football game, a school representative took to the field for a special announcement.
The teen, who thought the band was pausing to allow a fellow student to be surprised by a date to homecoming, was in complete shock when he heard his name over the loud speaker asking him to come to the sidelines.
"Nobody had a clue about what was happening, not even Stephen," said Jacob Pineda, a senior who has known Stephen since seventh grade. "We started our formation after the halftime show and Mr. (Christopher) Lopez started talking about Make-A-Wish, Stephen and his family. I looked at Stephen and he started balling. I went and hugged him and told him that I loved him."
Make-A-Wish worked with the local Guitar Center and Dynasty USA to fulfill Stephen's wish to replace the drumline equipment which includes 13 members on the drumline and 13 on the front ensemble.
As Stephen made his way from the back of the formation and inched closer to the sideline, tears came to his eyes when he saw his parents, his Make-A-Wish representatives and a huge pile of brand new percussion instruments.
"This wish is huge, it benefits the school, band members and the community and we really wanted to help out," said Mark Lopez, the store manager at Guitar Center. "It's amazing how he's thinking of everybody else during such a difficult time in his life. Securing an equipment order like this usually takes months but the importance of this wish really speed up the process."
Armando Martinez, Del Valle's band director, explains, "It's hard to believe someone would do something this generous when they could have done something for themselves. It's just remarkable that he is able to perform in the first place. Ninety percent of the band didn't know he was ill until Friday night. He doesn't let it stop him thought. As much pain as he is in, he's never stepped out of rehearsal because of it. His mom tells us that he goes home in pain, but he just fights through it."
Stephen's love for his band and his high school was felt that night at the Del Valle football field. His perseverance, determination and generosity will continue to impact the Del Valle High Band for many years to come.