Sometimes it’s hard to see the silver lining at the end of the tunnel. When my son was diagnosed with cancer back in January, we were crushed, heartbroken and endured months of hospitals, chemo, doctors visits and more. We truly were looking forward to the days where flushing his PICC line and dealing with the side effects of chemo weren’t our normal routine.
When we were in the hospital, we were given a load of paper work and one of the applications was for Make-A-Wish. At the time, I wasn’t sure if we should sign up for it. However, we had a few friends who had experienced a Wish and they said it was truly magical, a time for their family to just be together. We went ahead and signed up since all Oklahoma kids with life-threatening illnesses are granted a wish, and our son was no different. He was fighting for his life.
After turning in our paperwork, we went back to caring for our son, not thinking much of it. We had more hurdles to jump over before we could think about his wish. We wanted it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but his health was our number one priority. A few months in, his prognosis was good, we started envisioning healthier days where his dreams could be fulfilled.
We were connected with our Wish Coordinator and we discussed so many ideas of what his wish could be. We went back and forth multiple times since our four year old’s world wasn’t very big and he thought he wanted his Wish to simply go bowling. His dad and I really tried to think of what he would want to do, experience, meet or have. We finally came up with a Planes, Trains and Automobiles idea since he loves all things that go, and could incorporate a few fun experiences within that idea.
The big day finally came and we headed down to Will Rogers Airport for the Planes portion of the wish. We had our bags packed for a few days in Colorado, but we were only told bare-bones of our itinerary since there were a few surprises along the way! When we arrived, we were met by the friendliest Southwest Airlines employee you could imagine – Mr. Dave. He made my son, Jace, feel comfortable right away. Jace was a little overwhelmed since there was a big group with us, but he was so excited to see behind the scenes at the airport, where the luggage goes, riding in a tug that delivers all the luggage, talking to the pilot over the radio, even inside the wheel well. They let him direct a plane into the gate, where he got a big wave from the pilot, who came to shake his hand after! What a fun morning we had, an experience like none other.
Soon we boarded and were given a warm welcome, with a special shoutout for Jace! This was his first time on a plane (you can’t really count the time he was 5 months because he doesn’t remember it) and his eyes were glued to the window as we took off on the runway and flew up, up, up to the sky.
We flew to Colorado where we were going to experience a few train rides, on old-time trains! The first one was at the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, where he got to see the engineer’s seat on the train, pull the whistle and they even let him decorate his own dessert. It was a leisurely train ride where we could walk from car to car and look up at the Royal Gorge bridge, which is quite a sight to behold.
We had a few days of sightseeing, where we jam packed in lots of activities and fun things for both of our kids. We went to Georgetown, Colorado to ride another old-time train, the Georgetown Loop, and enjoyed that as well!
The automobile portion of his wish was mostly a means of transportation from one place to another. However, the car ride is how we found snow, another of my son’s favorite things, where he got to take a bite and play for a few minutes with his sister. We surely don’t get a lot of snow here in Oklahoma, so this was rare occasion for them both!
There were so many fun details and surprises along the way. Our Make-A-Wish coordinator and the teams at Make-A-Wish Oklahoma and Colorado, as well as Southwest Airlines and Will Rogers World Airport really made the experience one we will never forget as a family. It was amazing to receive this gift for my son, and as a family, but what was truly a blessing was watching others partake in it as well. They saw my son had on his Make-A-Wish button and people went above and beyond to get a smile from my boy – to give him an experience like none other. One experience I will never forget are some waitresses on our first train ride pooled together some of their tip money so Jace could get a souvenir at the gift shop. Their generosity touched us. They didn’t have to do that at all, but they wanted him to have something to remember the trip.
Make-A-Wish truly does amazing things for children with life-threatening illnesses. Their purpose is to create joy, hope, and strength for kids who have gone through treatments, have battled or are still battling sicknesses, to give them a moment of absolute awe for them to remember forever. It’s about family and being together. To have an experience that will take the place of hospital stays, doctors visits and needle pokes.
And this, truly, is a trip that has bonded our family like never before! We are so appreciative of all the people who went out of their way to make this whole experience happen for our son, our daughter and for us.
News 9 also documented a little about my son’s story. You can see it here!