Marc Krajekian was a carefree child who found his greatest joy in playing tennis, until he developed a pain in his ankle that slowed him down. When he learned it was caused by a tumor, him and his parents made the very tough decision to cut out the cancer by amputating his leg. The little boy from North Carolina recovered from surgery and faced a new beginning without his right leg. Still, he was determined to find a way to keep playing.
While he was in the hospital, he was inspired by his tennis teammates in North Carolina to stay strong, and then got a note of encouragement from his hero, Roger Federer. The tennis champ wrote to feel better, and promised to hit with him when he was ready.
When he did get well enough to start playing tennis with a prosthetic, the Tennis Channel arranged for him to meet another Roger. Roger Crawford is the first and only person to be a U.S. Professional Tennis Association athlete and play a Division 1 college sport with a severe disability. And, he was the perfect guy to inspire Marc to keep playing hard.
"I don't feel disabled, I feel abled," said Krajekian. "If you have issues, you shouldn't just back away from what you love."
Then Crawford connected Marc with a long time friend of his, Scott Sabolich, who makes high quality prosthetics. The Tennis Channel helped Marc's family visit Sabolich's Limbs for Life foundation in Oklahoma. That is where Marc was fitted with a brand new prosthetic made just for him, which offered 360 mobility and a stronger competitive edge on the court.
But, the Tennis Channel wasn't quite done with Marc. With the U.S. Open just around the corner they arranged a special trip for his family, along with a huge surprise. When Marc arrived at the U.S. Open he spotted his hero Roger Federer, but didn't realize he'd be led straight to him. That game Federer promised Marc when he was in the hospital, was about to be realized. Federer gave Marc lots of signed mementos, but the best part for Marc was the moment he got to hit with his hero.
Federer says he too, found inspiration in Marc's story, "For me also it is a nice moment to meet someone like him," said Federer. "I wanted to make sure he got the full treatment and the best experience possible so I hope he enjoyed himself."
"The U.S. Open has been amazing, I don't want to go home I want to stay here, I really love it here," said Krajekian.
Krajekian's parents, Jack and Marie-Joe have been overwhelmed with gratitude to the Tennis Channel, Roger Crawford, Scott Sabolich, and of course Roger Federer. They say each moment has been an amazing gift, and they hope everyone finds inspiration in their son's story to realize that the sky is the limit.
"Honestly, when it first happened I was worried about my son and how I was going to help him," said Marc's mother, Marie-Joe Krajekian. "It tuns out that he helped me and he helped his dad more than we helped him."
His father, Jack Krajekian, added, "I cannot tell you how proud I am, but he has this spirit and he gives us the drive."
HERE'S YOUR CHANCE TO HELP CHILDREN LIKE MARC
LIMBS FOR LIFE FOUNDATION
The Limbs for Life Foundation is looking for help and donations. Click the link above to go to their website or connect directly:
Limbs for Life
9604 N. May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73120
CHALLENGED ATHLETES FOUNDATION
The Challenged Athletes Foundation offers many opportunities for challenged athletes to compete and to practice, and they are also always looking for volunteers and donations. They host events around the country in which they look for participation, so click here to find out if there's an event near you.
Or, contact them directly:
9591 Waples Street
San Diego, CA 92121
Marc's journey was made possible as part of a series run by the Tennis Channel called, TenniStory. We encourage you to see some of their other inspiring stories, like that of Althea Gibson who set the stage for black female athletes in tennis and around the world.
Watch the full story on Marc's journey here:
Watch more of the moment Marc met Federer, here: