Friday, July 30, 2010

Mark's Army Jeep Wish

We've granted a lot of unique wishes over the years... wishes to visit a grandparent who lives out of state, wishes to see the French Open, wishes to pet a kangaroo in Australia, wishes to have a pop-up trailer that the whole family can camp in. Then there are wishes that are uinque, and require a lot of work from loving members of our community. There was Stephanie's wish for her own secret garden, Garrett's wish for his own calf-roping arena, Brycens' wish for his own baseball field in his backyard.

Well today we granted a wish for Mark, who declared a wish to have his own Army jeep sometime ago. When Mark first declared his wish, his mom tells us the rest of the family was really hoping for a nice vacation. But Mark was adamant that he declare a wish for his own Army jeep.

"There goes our chance for our vacation!" Mom joked.

Some things are just meant to be. In this case, it was meant to be that Mark get his very own Army jeep. After spending nearly 3 months in the hospital, Mark's mom says she can understand that he didn't want to leave the hospital and go on vacation... he just wanted to go home. And while Mark has an intestine disorder that can make for lots of visits to the doctor's office, he doesn't let that keep him from doing what he loves most – pretending to play “Army”. His father and grandfather have both served for the Army and as a result, Mark loves to be a pretend soldier himself. In fact, his favorite color is Army green.

So after finding a 1944 Willys jeep that was for sale our volunteer Wish Granters met Ray Meldrum, who became instrumental in restoring this jeep. He and a group of several dozen community members went to work restoring history. All parts that could possibly injure someone were removed. All of the rust has been cut away and new steel panels have been welded into place. The jeep was completely sandblasted, covered with body putty and prime coated. It was then finish painted in a space of two weeks.

The engine, transmission and any other usable parts that could be used on a future project were removed. Those who completed the transformation will preserve history by holding on to those parts for another restoration project.

The headlights and lights in the dashboard are functional, thus allowing Mark to be able to play on his jeep even after the sun goes down. The steering also works. Finally, to top the jeep off, it has been outfitted with a dummy routing machine gun.

Interesting to know... over 600 man hours were put into restoring the jeep. The work was completed in less than one month. The jeep is a main attraction of a full-size playset that was also installed in Mark's backyard. In fact, when Mom saw it later she commented that it looked like a minature boot camp behind her home. Members from all branches of the military were instrumental in making Mark's wish come true - whether through helping restore the jeep or else making an appearance at today's presentation. Another interesting fact - WWII jeeps from the era this jeep was used had a hood number used to identify each vehicle; the hood number on Mark’s jeep is his birthday. Everyone who worked on the jeep, as well as the military members who were in attendance today, signed a well wish for Mark under the hood of the jeep.

This morning was a routine morning at Mark's house - his birthday is officially tomorrow so the family was off to celebrate at a local pancake house. While they were away a literal "Army" of volunteers closed in on the family home and began putting things into place.

As the family returned home Mark's wish granters escorted him to the backyard. As his jaw dropped he raised his hand and waved to the crowd.

After making his way over to the jeep an honor guard from Hill Air Force Base then presented the flag. The crowd listened as a cd played the national anthem. Mark was then made an honorary captain with the United States Army. To make it official he dropped to his hands and did push ups in front of a crowd of more than 100 neighbors, classmates and family members, as well as dozens of members of the military.

Several of those stopped to shake Mark's hand when the presentation was complete - and a few of them gave medals of honor for him to treasure forever.

There are some wishes that are really unique. But when it comes to encompassing the spirit of hope, strength, and joy - this wish might just be the wish that best explains what we stand for.

Special thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make Mark's wish come true. We are especially grateful to Raymond Meldrum, Addy Meldrum, Bill Harris, Chris Davis, Dave Krommenhoek, Glenn Embry, Mike Sanchez, Ryan Little and the Eric Shosted family for all of the time and hard work they have put into restoring this vehicle.

Finally - to Mark - Hooah Soldier! May you enjoy many endless days and nights on your real Army jeep.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why Noah's Wish Meant So Much...

Dear Make-A-Wish Staff and Donors,

We wanted to thank you for giving us a vacation and experience of a lifetime. Thank you so much for all of the arrangements that were made - our vacation went by without a hitch - everything was perfect. We feel very fortunate and blessed to be the recipients of such generosity. We are so grateful to all those individuals who made Noah's wish possible.

(photo courtesy Hyrum, Age 8)

Because of you our children were able to fly on an airplane for their 1st time, see the ocean, and go to Walt Disney World® Resort and Sea World - all things they hadn't experienced. We also loved the time we got to spend together as a family without any outside things needing our attention.

(photo courtesy Kate, Age 7)

(photo courtesy Kate, Age 7)
(photo courtesy Kate, Age 7)

(photo courtesy Kate, Age 7)

We loved staying at Give Kids The World - it really is a magical place, made that way by the people volunteering. We enjoyed meeting and seeing other wish families and taking advantage of the wonderful facilities.

(photo courtesy Joshua, Age 11)

It is hard to put into words how appreciative and grateful we are for a trip we'll never be able to match - it really was a dream come true. It made my husband and I emotional when we were first contacted by you wanting to give Noah a wish. It's not something you ever imagine would happen to you. We were emotional a second time when we received our final trip arrangements, itinerary and the check - it was all a reality at that time and the amount of the check and the reality of all that went in to planning Noah's wish - was more than we could imagine or hope for.

(photo courtesy Ben, Age 8)
(photo courtesy Ben, Age 8)

So again, thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.


Jenny and Doug
(Noah's Parents)

P.S. Our other children really wanted to thank you as well, so they included a thank you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brady Gets His Eagle*

(Darrell Thompson helps his son Brady, 18, paint a fire hydrant for his Eagle project on Monday, June 21, 2010 in Lindon. More than 100 neighbors, family and friends came out to help Brady Thompson paint 53 fire hydrants in their Lindon neighborhood to complete his Eagle project. ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

July 12, 2010 by Ashley Franscell

The flashing lights and siren were hardly noticeable when the fire truck drove through the Lindon neighborhood. The hundred people standing on the sidewalk could only see Brady's smile. It was ear to ear.
(The smile of Brady Thompson's face during his Court of Honor symbolized the many years that he put into finalize getting his Eagle despite health and paperwork setbacks. On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, hundreds of family and friends gathered in Lindon to watch as he got his medal pinned on. ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

• FOR YEARS, BRADY THOMPSON has wanted to be an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. His parents, Lori and Darrell, can remember him asking about getting his Eagle for years. He's had several ideas for a project. A few that he's given to cousins, who have gone on to get their Eagle. But, something always came up, health or otherwise, preventing him from going through with his.

At the age of 3, Brady had his first seizure. He spent years traveling the country with his parents, looking for something that would cure him. They tried machines and medications. Some of them worked, but for only a short amount of time. At 15 years old, he asked his parents to put him on hospice care, something he has been on ever since. Despite having nearly 1,000 seizures every day, which has left his body weak and barely able to speak, Brady always knew when it was Tuesday. He would call Eric Redd, Troop 836 Scout leader, and say "When are we going?"

He was always on the go, said Redd, who was with him on several Scouting trips. No matter how bad his seizures got, he still tried to be a part of everything. He'd try to run down the hill to catch up with all the other boys and end up face first after a seizure. Once they had to tie him to a tree because they were too nervous to have him run around with all his seizures, laughed Redd.

"Brady has more Scout spirit in his big toe than most Scouts," said his Bishop, Star Hall. "He's probably done 10 Eagle Scout projects just because of his desire to be involved."

Brady completed all but one of the 21 merit badges required for an Eagle before he turned 14 years old -- an age the Thompsons mark when his health took a downturn. The single merit badge that kept him from getting his Eagle for several years was cycling. Because of the frequency of his seizures, Brady was unable to stay upright on a bike, making it nearly impossible to get a badge. Once they tried to take him up to Bridal Veil Falls and Brady ended up in the river at the base after he had a seizure and fell off the side of the bike. They even tried buying a recumbent bike for him. For a few months, he and Darrell would bike around the neighborhood, stopping every few minutes as Brady had seizure after seizure. Another alternate for the badge was hiking, but for similar reasons, he couldn't do that either.

Lori finally noticed the alternative of archery and took Brady to an archery class in Orem.

Archery was easier because he could shoot in between the seizures. Lori would stand beside him and grab the bow when he went into a seizure and when he came out of the seizure he was able to shoot. Archery was a more controlled environment that allowed him the time to have a seizure, recover from it and still be able to shoot the bow.

"He had no special treatment," Lori said. "We didn't want to give him a crutch of being disabled."

But, the Boy Scouts of America didn't accept the archery alternative because it hadn't been pre-approved by the council, which proved to be one road block in getting Brady's Eagle.

The other road block was Brady's age. One of the requirements of the Boy Scout Council is that the application for the project must be filed before the Scout turns 18. Brady turned 18 in November.

"We spent 13 years doing all this work toward it but we've spent the last four years to keep him alive," Darrell said.

Brady joined the special needs boy Scout group last year as a supplement to his traditional group. The group, which consists of about 40 people from a few dozen LDS stake centers, helps guide Scouts from ages 12 to 65 suffering from several illnesses.

"They just do everything slower," said special needs Scout leader Howard Bezzant.

The Scouts are assigned a youth counselor who helps guide them through the activities at a slower rate than the traditional groups.

"Youth counselors take their hand in theirs and walk them through everything or help them talk even if it's just a word at a time," Bezzant said.

When Skyler Trent, 17, was called to be a youth counselor through his church, he didn't really know Brady. But in the past year, the two young men have become extremely close. Trent wipes Brady's drool from his face, he helped guide him through Scout activities and even held him up during Scout dances.

"It's been the best experience of my teenage years," Trent said. The special needs Boy Scouts "are always having fun and always smiling no matter what they are dealing with."

Chris Kearley didn't really know Brady until a few weeks ago. They'd never met, but she'd watched him ride in his Jeep Polaris (after clicking on this link click on "Brady's Wish" to read about the Jeep Polaris Brady received from the Make-A-Wish Foundation) for years in front of her house. She'd heard from Sheron Drake -- a neighbor and friend of the Thompsons -- that Brady had always wanted his Eagle but had run into setbacks. She thought about it for weeks and decided to do something about it, so she made a few phone calls to the local Boy Scout Council.

She was given the requirements of what she needed to get a packet together to get the application approved. She needed everything by the following afternoon when the council was meeting. Included in the packet, she needed three letters of recommendation. By midnight, that same night, she had 30.

"It took me four hours to write three paragraphs because I couldn't see the paper through my tears," said Eric Redd, who hand-delivered the letter to the Drake's house at midnight.
(More than 100 neighbors, family and friends came out to help Brady Thompson paint 53 fire hydrants in their Lindon neighborhood to complete his Eagle project on Monday, June 21, 2010. Because of Brady's seizures he was required to drive around and inspect all the work being done. "Everyone has been waiting for this for so long that they were so excited to come out and help," said neighbor Chris Kearley, who helped put Brady's Eagle process in motion. ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

Normally it takes about three months for a Scout to complete the process of getting his Eagle but for Brady, it took two weeks. During the last week of June, Brady, with the help of neighbors, friends and family, painted more than 50 fire hydrants around his Lindon neighborhood for his Eagle project.

"Everyone has been waiting for this for so long that they were so excited to come out and help," Kearley said.

It wasn't much of a surprise for the Thompsons to see more than 100 people on their lawn ready to help paint.

"That's what Brady does," Darrell said, smiling.
(Brady Thompson eagerly awaits the start of his Court of Honor ceremony on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 in Lindon. For several years, Brady had been working toward his Eagle and until a couple weeks ago there were still several setbacks. A neighbor got involved and helped push it through the local and national council and within two weeks it was approved. ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

During Brady's Court of Honor on Tuesday, packages of Kleenex were passed between aisles and sniffles punctuated each of the speakers as they spoke of how deserving he was of the award.

He's selfless. A warrior. A true friend. Inspiring. In between seizures, he turned and smiled at Darrell, who wiped tears from his eyes. When it came time, Darrell grabbed him by the back of the arms and held him up as he walked to the podium.

"He was trying to stand so tall up there," Kearley said.
(Skyler Trent of Lindon pins the Eagle medal on Brady Thompson, 18, during his Court of Honor on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 in Lindon. "I had goosebumps," said Trent. "Knowing that I was his friend and seeing all the respect that people had for him. It was emotional." ASHLEY FRANSCELL/Daily Herald)

Brady, described as 10-foot tall and bulletproof, stood in front of the crowd as Skyler Trent pinned on his medal.

"I had goosebumps," Trent said. "Knowing that I was his friend and seeing all the respect that people had for him. It was emotional."

For many, Brady sets the perfect example of the Boy Scout oath, which starts, "On my honor, I will do my best."

No matter how hard Brady's life has been, he's always kept going. Always has done his best. And always kept smiling.


*As reported in The Daily Herald

Monday, July 19, 2010

Make-A-Wish Helps Girl Get Her Dream Bedroom*

July 29, 2010 by Gina Barker

SALT LAKE CITY — Beds can mark the growth of a child. From a crib to a twin, a change in furniture marks a milestone in age and maturity. But for Kimberly Gallardo, a new bed celebrates her health, another year she has survived.

Kimberly was diagnosed and treated for brain tumors when she was 4 years old.

At age 5, after a year spent in and out of the hospital, she is in remission. Her recovery was celebrated Saturday at RC Willey, where she saw the bedroom set she is getting as part of her wish with Make-A-Wish Foundation.

(Kimberly Gallerdo, 5, center, smiles as she is surrounded by family and wish granters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation at RC Willey in Salt Lake City Saturday, July 17, 2010. photo courtesy Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News)

Kimberly's grandmother, Maria Bruno, moved to the United States with her family more than 13 years ago. Kimberly and her sisters Estrella and Daniella were born in Salt Lake City and live with their father. Kimberly's family gathered around her to play with her new toys and help her discover her soon-to-be room.

"It makes us very happy," Bruno said. "All she would talk about is having a Dora bed, having all this Dora stuff. It makes me happy that Make-A-Wish is here to provide this."

(Kimberly Gallerdo, 5, plays on her new bed at RC Willey in Salt Lake City Saturday, July 17, 2010. Kimberly suffers from brain tumors but is currently in recession. She was granted a room makeover through Make-A-Wish Foundation. Also pictured are sister Danielle, 7, and wish granter Melinda Woods. photo courtesy Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News)

A "Dora the Explorer" theme dominated the bedroom set, on the sheets, pillows and toys. Pink was everywhere, including the jars of her favorite candy, Starbursts. The RC Willey setup was just a preview. In a few weeks, the real thing will be set up in Kimberly's own room.

A room makeover is not an uncommon wish, said Katherine Fife, director of marketing and development.

"In a room that they spend a lot of time in,it's a way for that to become a situation that they have control over," Fife said. "They make it their own, a place where they can escape the medical conditions they face on a daily basis."

The bedroom furniture was donated by Broyhill Furniture, which will give a total of 50 bedrooms to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the next year. On top of the 50 gifted bedrooms, the company will donate 1 percent of all profits from its furniture sales for the next two months to the foundation.

Ken Curtis, Broyhill Furniture regional vice president, said he was excited to be involved with making wishes come true.

"We really do get a good feeling for doing all this," he said. "… It's stunning, exciting."

Kimberly, her sister and often her grandmother sleep in her tiny room, 9 by 10 feet. While the room has a full-size bed, Kimberly normally sleeps on a small mattress from her old crib. Robbie Woods, her Make-A-Wish case volunteer, said she was overdue for a bigger bed.

She shyly clung to her grandmother's pants and hid her face from the small crowd, not understanding the attention she was receiving. But one of the first things she did was show sisterly love, reaching for a few Starbursts and handing them to her two sisters.

This fall Kimberly will start kindergarten, with a brand new Dora backpack. Smiling as she played with her two sisters, she leaned back on her future bedding. But the simplicity of her feelings were summed up in the phrase she kept repeating.

(Kimberly Gallerdo, 5, is helped onto her new bed by Make-A-Wish wish granter Melinda Woods. Kimberly received a complete room makeover at RC Willey in Salt Lake City Saturday, July 17, 2010. Kimberly suffers from brain tumors but is currently in recession. photo courtesy Sarah A. Miller, Deseret News)

"Me gusta," she said. "I like it."


*as reported in the Deseret News

Make a donation in honor of this wish story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Emma's Story

It was 1990 when cancer appeared in the lining of 15-year-old Emma's heart. Treatment was a horrific experience, and when it was over, she put it firmly behind her. Unfortunately, a few months later, the cancer returned. This time Emma knew more treatment was eminent. With 15-year-old angst and anger, she refused treatment.

Her oncologist at Primary Children’s Medical Center called Make-A-Wish and disclosed her dilemma. “I know that she wants to be a model; she talks about that all the time. But if Emma does not actively participate in treatment, she has less than a 1% chance of survival. With treatment she could survive and maybe thrive. Can you talk to her about this wish of hers? It could give her a powerful reason to fight through the chemotherapy for a second time.”
Emma wished to be a model, and with the help of the McCarty Agency, she appeared frequently in Salt Lake newspapers and magazines over the next few years. She also became a five year survivor, succumbing eventually though to a different cancer caused by her treatment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

May You Have Reason to Remember...

One of our all-time favorite wishes is that of Grant, who had a wish to be an American soldier.

This 11-year-old loves learning about history, particularly the wars that shaped America. He frequently pictures himself in past times as a soldier and wonders what it might have been like to live and fight in those eras. Grant is a young patriot who would like to join the Army one day and battle something other than cystic fibrosis. When his mom and dad asked Grant why he wanted to serve, Grant said, "Since I am going to die young, I want to die for a reason.” Grant traveled to Pennsylvania for basic training with the National Guard. He flew in jets, trained in flight simulators, and was even made an honorary colonel. He was especially thrilled to participate in a Civil War reenactment at Gettysburg, a Remembrance Day parade, and a dedication ceremony at the National Cemetery where Tom Brokaw spoke.

In case you need reason to remember why we pull out the hot dogs, fire up the grill, and light the firecrackers... we thought this story would serve as a gentle reminder. Wishing you all wonderful Independence Day, and may God bless those who so faithfully serve and fight for our freedom.

(photo courtesy Kent Miles)

Friday, July 2, 2010

When Work Becomes Personal

I have worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah for a little over 7 years now and still have those AH HA moments often of why I work here. I see our wish kids every day; I see them in wheelchairs, with oxygen, etc. but this is the first time I have had a personal connection from my own life to a wish kid.

Eight-year-old Tomas was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor a few months ago; he is in Sunday School with my nephew Ben. Tomas is one of the most loving children you will ever meet and I decided I wanted to do his wish for him with the help of Jodi A., one of our fabulous Wish Granters. When Jodi and I met with Tomas his top 3 wishes were to go to Hawaii, to meet Billy Graham to learn how to be a preacher or to have a shopping spree to buy a gecko and an iPhone for his dad. We had to look up Billy Graham to see if he was still alive as Jodi and I weren’t sure, and he is – he’s 91! Anyway – Tomas decided that Hawaii would be his number 1 wish.

In the days leading up to the trip Tomas was not doing well. His mom was keeping us updated as to how Tomas was doing and when I went to church the 2 Sundays before his trip Tomas was in a wheelchair because he was too weak to walk; his speech was slow and he looked very tired. The Sunday before the trip we continued to talk about whether they should cancel the trip or not. There is something I can’t explain about a wish – we like to call it Make-A-Wish magic – somehow Tomas was up and walking around the 2 days before his trip. He got on the plane and headed to the place he wanted to go most. While there his mom sent Jodi and me an email saying he was walking around on his own, swimming in the pool, he went on a helicopter ride, snorkeled and in this picture is SURFING!

It’s moments like this that remind me how important a wish is to a child, and to the family. Thank you for helping us send children like Tomas to a haven where they can have hope, gain strength and create joy with their families!

Just an update – Tomas has been back for 2 weeks now. I saw him in church last Sunday and he was up and walking around, told me all about his trip and is looking forward to his star raising here at Make-A-Wish.

-Christine M.