One by one they waited.
Friends, classmates, even former teammates all lined up — long after the senior night festivities had ended at Mid-Pacific gym on Tuesday — to present a lei and share a special embrace with a friend who’s enduring a trying time.
Mid-Pacific senior basketball player Ben Swanson returned from Minnesota to be on the bench one last time and share the experience of senior night with his Owls teammates.
His father, Brad, who is fighting an incurable brain cancer that was detected just a month ago and uprooted the Swanson family, was back in Minnesota undergoing treatment.
Tuesday’s game was live streamed, so Brad’s wife Jen and Ben’s two older brothers could watch it from Minnesota. Brad, however, couldn’t — the condition has stripped away much of his sight.
But Brad probably could feel the energy rising from Mills Gym as about 1,500 fans attended, with the majority of them wearing white t-shirts emblazoned with #SwansonStrong” green lettering.
Brad coached many of the Owls players as one of the founders of the OWLS club devoted to developing Mid-Pac players.
The turnout, son Ben said, “was amazing.
“I’m just so proud to be part of Mid-Pacific. Everyone can come together for one cause and come to a great game (MPI lost 48-44 to Punahou in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.).”
Ben said the support the family has received has helped them persevere.
“It was definitely the help of everyone who sent their thoughtful words and all the messages of love. It really helped, and I know (it helped) especially my dad and my mom get through all of this. They read them every day and they love all of them.”
Ben was accompanied in his return by his aunt and uncle and their two children.
“It was pretty amazing, very emotional,” said Ann Marie Beste, who is Jen’s sister.
Jen, who keeps well-wishers updated with entries on caringbridge.org, wrote that “We are so grateful that Ben is able to experience this night with his teammates.”
Ben’s return was made possible by Honolulu dentist Garrett Hayashi, a Mid-Pacific alum who helped coach the OWLS club teams with Brad and paid for Ben’s trip.
“Garrett is just amazing,” Ben said. “For someone to make this possible … I love him for it.”
Ben said he plans to return one more time — for his graduation from Mid-Pacific on May 23.
“Hopefully, we’ll all be able to make it, but we shall see.”