BY BARRY WONG
At this time last year, Kevin Olekaibe was in the middle of a waiting game.
The Cimarron-Memorial grad transferred from Fresno State to UNLV to be closer to his ailing father. He was already enrolled at UNLV, but was hoping that the NCAA would approve a hardship waiver so he could run with the Rebels for his senior season.
The waiver was approved right before the start of the season, and Olekaibe ended up being a key starter for the Runnin’ Rebels.
This year, he’s waiting again. And, like a year ago, he has minimal control of the situation.
“We’re just trying to do everything we can to make sure he gets his last request and rests in piece,” he said.
Benson Olekaibe passed away on Sept. 24. He had been in hospice care for his son’s entire college basketball career as a result of two strokes, one in 2008 and one in 2010.
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“We weren’t prepared at all. I’d always thought of my dad as Iron Man,” Kevin Olekaibe said. “He worked so hard, and nothing could ever get to him. He survived a long time in his condition. The doctors said that doesn’t happen. They thought he would have passed a couple years ago. Him dying never passed my mind at all. I always thought he’d fight through it.”
Long before his death, he told the family that if anything unfortunate were to happen to him, that he wished to be buried back home in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Nigerians take that very seriously, where they come from,” Kevin Olekaibe said.
To fulfill his final wish, the Olekaibe family needs a significant amount of money. His wife Esther and three of Kevin’s brothers plan to take Benson’s body home and have a funeral with around 70 members of the family that live in Nigeria. While flights are costly, transporting the body is the biggest expense, needing to go from Las Vegas to Atlanta to the village in Nigeria.
The family started a page on GoFundMe, a crowdsourcing Web site, with the goal of raising $25,000.
As of Oct. 8, $1,435 has been donated. Kevin Olekaibe says any amount donated will help. The hope is to fulfill Benson Olekaibe’s last request sooner rather than later, with the tentative funeral set for some time in November.
No matter what, Kevin Olekaibe says the family will honor the request, whether it’s finding a different funding option or burying his body here, with the goal of getting him to Nigeria down the line.
“It’s tough right now,” he said. “We know he’s in a better place.”
And for anyone thinking about donating, Kevin Olekaibe has these words for you:
“I known it’s tough time for everybody. We’re accepting anything. Anything will help us. God bless you, and thank you for everything.”
Those who wish to donate can do so in the link below:
— Kevin Olekaibe (@swaggyKO) September 26, 2014