A local student-athlete is receiving support from all over after an accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Makai Lloren, an eighth grader at Alta Sierra Intermediate School, was attempting a front flip on a trampoline when he landed on his head, resulting in injuries to his C6 and C7 vertebrae.
The 13-year-old wrestler was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno, where he spent just over a week recovering in an intensive care unit (ICU). Makai was then transferred to Valley Children’s, where he will spend the next month in rehab learning the activities of daily living.
“He’s learning to basically live on his own so he can start doing his daily activities with the least amount of help as possible,” Makai’s older brother DJ said. “Honestly, he’s doing better than I would be in his situation. He’s still smiling every day when I go see him.”
While there’s not much doctors can do when it comes to the spinal cord injury, the star wrestler has nevertheless kept his spirits up, thanks to the local and national support coming in.
The latest sign of support came on Friday when coach Troy Steiner and the Fresno State wrestling team paid a visit to Makai’s hospital room.
“Honestly, the support from the community has been incredible,” said DJ, a wrestler for the Bulldogs. “It means so much to our family because it’s such a tragic event that happened, but seeing how much the community cares has just been amazing.”
Makai’s story has also touched the hearts of well-known figures like UFC president Dana White, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and world-class wrestler Kyle Dake to name a few.
White went as far as inviting the Lloren family to a future UFC event in Las Vegas.
“He’s had so many of his idols send videos and messages and all these things,” DJ said. “It gives him joy seeing those things.”
Words of encouragement and monetary donations almost immediately started flowing in after Makai suffered the injury on Jan. 16 at the newly-opened Defy Clovis trampoline park.
The Buchanan High School community, which includes Alta Sierra, quickly sprang into action by selling “Team Makai” T-shirts to raise funds.
Buchanan wrestling coach Troy Tirapelle and the Bears then kicked it up a notch by donating all gate proceeds from their “Battle of the Bears” match against Selma on Jan. 22.
“It’s not a ton of money but hopefully it helps in some way, shape or form,” said Tirapelle. “I think most of the things that we do that help is more just showing that we care. Just because this happened doesn’t mean that he’s forgotten.”
Even though Tirapelle was looking forward to coaching Makai next season, the injury doesn’t change anything.
“He is still a part of the Bear Nation wrestling family no matter what,” Tirapelle added. “We wish him well, and we’ll do whatever we can to keep his spirits up and help him come back from this so he can live a healthy, satisfying life.”
In addition, a GoFundMe account has been set up to get Makai a motorized wheelchair “so that [he] can get back to doing the things he loves,” according to the page. As of Sunday, Feb. 3, the online fundraiser has reached $19,611 of its $50,000 goal.
“As of now it’s just about trying to get better every day and praying for miracles because miracles do happen — and hope he’s one of them,” DJ said. “Just like the message we tell him: get stronger each day, just take it day by day and you never know what could happen.”