A Rochester High School senior with terminal cancer had his dream fulfilled when he met hip hop superstar Eminem over the weekend.
Gage Garmo, 17, died on Monday after meeting his idol the day prior, according to Rochester-based charity organization The Rainbow Connection.
The organization said Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, an Oakland Township resident, made a surprise visit to the Garmo home Sunday evening.
“The smile he had on his face when Eminem was sitting next to him was out of this world,” said Rainbow Connection wish director Ingrid Todt. “His parents said they haven’t seen him smile like that in quite a while.
“It’s exactly what wishes are all about.”
Todt said the teen spoke with the rapper about football, school and a recent Eminem concert Garmo attended.
The non-profit, founded in 1985 by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, coordinates wishes for children throughout the state with life-threatening or terminal diseases.
This was the fifth recurrence of the cancer for Garmo, who was diagnosed with cancer as a freshman in 2010. His leg was amputated prior to this school year in an attempt to keep the cancer from spreading. However, the cancer had reached his lungs and “progressed at an uncontrollable rate,” according to an online fund-raising campaign.
“We’re really happy we were able to make it happen,” said Mary Grace McCarter, executive director of The Rainbow Connection. “It was really something special.”
Garmo was granted early graduation from his Rochester Hills school last week.
“The Garmo family sends out a big thank you to Eminem and The Rainbow Connection for making Gage’s dream to meet Eminem come true,” father Gheis Garmo said in a statement.
The Rochester Community Schools community has embraced Garmo, promoting the hashtag #GarmoStrong. Students even enlisted Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and city staff for an inspirational video.
Friends have also created a GoFundMe online crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 for the Garmo family. As of Monday afternoon, the fund had raised more than $27,000 in just two days. Visitgofundme.com/garmostrong to donate.
Classmate and friend Brianna Pulliam, who created the campaign, has known Garmo since their time together at Brooklands Elementary.
“I was very excited and proud (of the campaign),” she said. “I didn’t know something like this could happen and I was completely shocked we got this far in two days.”
A fund-raiser was also held Sunday, Jan. 11 at a local Buffalo Wild Wings with a portion of each attendees’ bill to be donated to help the Garmo family. Friends estimate donations of more than $6,000 were received at the event with proceeds from the restaurant still to be calculated.
Also, more than 1,000 people are estimated to have attended a car painting event at Borden Park earlier that day. That event raised some $3,000, friends said.
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for Garmo Monday night at the school’s football stadium.
“It’s the least we could do for Gage,” friend Isabella Tan said.
Tan has known Garmo since the sixth grade, when they shared a math class at Reuther Middle School.
“It’s been hard seeing him going through this,” she said. “He’s been fighting every day and never let it show. … He’s acting like the same old Gage.”
The Rainbow Connection grants approximately 150 wishes for children like Garmo each year.
“The greatest thing people can do (to facilitate wishes for the terminally ill) is to support The Rainbow Connection so we can help other kids,” McCarter said.
To learn more or to donate, visit rainbowconnection.org.