May 13, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Members of the Wisconsin football team are accustomed to hard work and overcoming obstacles, but this week they are taking renewed inspiration from 14-year-old Darien Moran of Madison.
Darien is battling his second bout of a rare autoimmune disease called histiocytosis. He was first diagnosed in the summer of 2011 after experiencing leg and hip pain that doctors first attributed to a sports-related injury. After receiving the diagnosis, Darien beat the disease only to have it return six months later. Earlier this year, Darien was sidelined again with a tumor on his skull and is currently undergoing three consecutive daily regimens of chemotherapy every 28 days.
Though the 14-year-old’s battle with the disease has kept him from playing sports himself, it has not kept him from cheering for the Wisconsin football team. His love for the Badgers inspired the young boy to wish for a Badgers-themed room makeover from Make-A-Wish Wisconsin.
“They’re a good team and they’re all really big,” Darien said. “And they’re really nice people. But when you see them on the football team they’re all mean, they like to hit people. I’m like that, too.”
When the team heard of Darien’s plight and his love of UW football, the Badgers were excited to help in any way it could. More than 20 players will be involved in transforming Darien’s room from start to finish.
The three-day project, which began Sunday and concludes Monday evening has members of the team visiting Darien’s home to help haul furniture, put together shelving units and hook up electronics leading up to the “room reveal” party at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The finished room will include a wall-to-wall Badgers turf rug, "stadium" lighting, a ceiling fan, football graphics and accessories, framed prints, a flat screen TV, laptop computer, gaming and sound systems, sports collectibles and more.
“We’re all very excited because helping someone in need is what being a Badger is all about,” junior Marcus Trotter said. “Whenever we get the chance to do that, it always means a lot to us.”
To ensure his room makeover is a surprise, Darien will also be given an exclusive tour of Camp Randall by UW head coach Gary Andersen on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m going to just try and talk to him and not be in shock,” said Darien.
While there is no cure for Darien’s disease and it may recur throughout his life, the 14-year-old is taking it in stride.
“Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Why do I have to do this, it sucks,’” Darien said. “But you have to get through it. It could be worse.”
An attitude like that is something the Badgers take to heart.
“It’s really special to be able to give back to a kid that has gone through so much,” senior Ethan Armstrong said. “It’s also really inspiring to get to spend time with him and learn from how he has handled all that he’s been through.”
Fans can follow along with the room transformation on Twitter by following @UWBadgersdotcom.