A Montgomery County family has gone from utter devastation to shooting hoops with the president.
Until March of 2009, the Friedlanders seemed like a lot of other American families. Audrey and Jon Friedlander spent their days raising four great sons, Jordan, Justin, Jacob and Joey.
Then came the terrible, life-changing news: Justin, 13, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
After the initial shock passed, despair gave way to determination. Justin chose to focus his energy on finding a cure, and helping the approximately 63,000 other Americans who are diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year.
Justin is a sports buff -- especially about basketball. He hit on the idea of shooting 63,000 baskets to help raise awareness and money for research. He and his family launched Justin’s Quest with help from the National Brain Tumor Society.
So far, Justin has shot hoops with a lot of celebrities, including the Wizards and the Redskins and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. He even had a conversation with his hero, LeBron James.
But Tuesday was the ultimate.
The Friedlander family was invited to meet President Barack Obama.
White House aides had prepped the family to expect a few seconds in the Oval Office – a quick “meet and greet” with the big man. It was a busy day for Obama. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for several hours and had a late afternoon meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, along with all the other responsibilities a president juggles on a daily basis.
Finally it was the Friedlanders’ turn. Obama introduced himself and posed for a picture with the family in the Oval Office. He asked how many shots they’d hit so far and Justin told him about 15,000. Then the president shocked them all, according to a blog entry by Justin’s father. “He said, ‘I know that shooting does not fit in my schedule but we are gonna do it anyway.’ The president then took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and we were led outside of the Oval office to the Presidential basketball court… to shoot hoops.”
Jon Friedlander said the president told each of the boys they had to make a basket. Understandably, shooting free throws with the leader of the free world can make a guy nervous. Justin went first. It took him three tries to get a basket. Jacob made a basket in two tries. Jordan took three tries, and Joey hit a basket on his sixth try.
The president sank his first shot.
Now Justin’s Quest is up to 15,005 baskets. And a boy who is determined to find a brain tumor cure got a big emotional boost.
“The President made my dream come true,” Justin said. “It was simply awesome.”