John Wall, Nicki Minaj and Miyah

Damiyah Telemaque-Nelson has all the dolls and princesses she ever dreamed of, but her mom kept asking the 5-year old what else she wanted.

“I want to meet Nicki Minaj,” the youngster decided.

“Okay, I don’t know if Mommy can do that,” Kadisha Telemaque responded.

But her daughter – who has a form of cancer known as Burkitt’s lymphoma, which was diagnosed in October – has gone through months of chemotherapy. She’s had dialysis, spinal taps and extended stays at Children’s National Medical Center. If she wanted to meet Nicki Minaj, her mom was going to make it happen.

So Kadisha and her friends started peppering the entertainer’s social media pages with photos and messages about Damiyah, known to all as Miyah. That effort got the boost it needed when a friend of Wizards point guard John Wall showed him a Facebook post about Miyah’s wish. Wall – who has friends of friends in Minaj’s circle – brought Miyah’s tale to the team’s community relations staffers.

So on Wednesday night, Miyah and her family sat in Wall’s seats at Verizon Center. By Thursday, the family from Northeast Washington was back at the arena to meet Wall, even after the team canceled practice. By Friday, their joint video message to Minaj was all over social media.

“I want to meet Nicki Minaj and I want one of her pink wigs,” Miyah says in the video.

“What’s up Nicki, my buddy Miyah has cancer, and Nicki, c’mon, help us out, help us get one of those pink wigs,” Wall says, before hugging the young girl.

Before Friday was over, the music superstar had responded.

“Hi Miyah!!!!” Minaj wrote on Twitter. “Let’s see what we can come up with for a pretty little princess. ;)”

“She doesn’t know the depths of it, but she’s so happy,” her mom told me Saturday morning. “She said: ‘Nicki wrote me, Mommy? You think you’re going to like me in my pink wig?’ I said, ‘Yes Miymiy, I’m going to love you in whatever you have on.’ ”

Wall isn’t embarrassed to talk about his celebrity status, the people he knows or his million-plus Twitter followers. But he figures he should use those things “to do great things and help other peoples’ lives.”

“I had an opportunity with my celebrity status, knowing people that know people, to help this girl’s dream come true,” he said in a telephone interview from Milwaukee. “I knew [Minaj] had a caring heart, and when she had an opportunity to see it or read about it, I knew she’d reach out as soon as she could. I just thank my fans, everybody who retweeted it and reposted it, to give me the opportunity to make this girl’s wish come true. And we’ll try to make it happen.”

While Wall is notoriously shy and reserved, Miyah is the opposite. She sprinted toward the guard for a hug when they first met on Thursday. Then they clowned around on the basketball court, talked about Minaj’s music and fashion, and put everyone else at ease.

(Courtesy the Wizards)
(Courtesy the Wizards)

“Honestly, I just was a spectator at that point,” said Sashia Jones, the team’s senior director of community relations. “It was natural, and we don’t get to experience that much. There are times when you’re in a room with an athlete doing a meet and great, and you have to do all the talking. [But] I could have left the arena.”

Wall came up with a script for their 15-second video, a time frame that was tough for Miyah to abide. And despite authoring the script, Wall kept stumbling over his lines. But on the fourth or so take, it clicked.

“Everybody knew,” said Miyah’s mom.

“Everyone looked at each other and said, ‘That’s perfect,’ ” Jones said.

“I’m a shy person, I’m real quiet, but it was great,” Wall said. “You never want to miss an opportunity to put a smile on a kid’s face.”

For now, Miyah and her family are focused on Monday, when she has to return to the hospital for another scan and the latest prognosis. Wall, who knew of the visit, said Miyah is “a great little kid, she has a kind heart,” adding “I want everybody to pray for her.”

And her family – including older brother Khareem, who has decided he wants Wall to be his basketball coach – is soaking it all in.

“I wasn’t going to rest until I found a way to do it; I’m just surprised it happened so suddenly,” Kadisha said. “And it came about so easily, I was like, ‘Okay, dreams can come true.’ ”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · March 7

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