OLDSMAR – Matthew, from New Port Richey, is a spunky 8-year-old affectionately nicknamed “Boots,” because he cherishes his cowboy boots and wears them with every outfit. Matthew loves Buzz Lightyear, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, listening to ‘N Sync and is fascinated with outer space. He has a lot of the same interests as other children his age, but Matthew’s life is different. He is dealing with a leukemia relapse, battling leukemia for the second time in only four years. Even when Matthew was dealing with hair loss and bouts of nausea from his chemotherapy treatments, he never lost his sense of humor or his happy disposition.
When Wish Coordinator Madeline Robinson of Kids Wish Network was contacted about Matthew, Madeline quickly orbited into action, coordinating a wish that was out of this world. Matthew and his grandfather would soon be attending Space Camp USA in Titusville, to experience the training and thrills of being a real-life astronaut.
To make his wish even more exciting, Matthew was presented with his personalized wish at Kids Wish Network’s black tie gala fundraiser, held March 10 at the Wyndham Westshore hotel in Tampa. Remembering Matthew’s love for the Bucs, Madeline had four Buccaneer players escort him to the stage where he was granted his wish in front of gala attendees, showing them firsthand the magic a wish can bring to a sick child. He also received a Bucs autographed football, a gift box filled with Matchbox toys, astronaut memorabilia and a Buzz Lightyear doll.
Matthew and his grandfather experienced five days of space-themed activities including simulated Space Shuttle missions, IMAX® movies, training simulators (like the 1/6th Gravity Chair), rocket building, launches of the rockets they built and scientific experiments. “I drank something the scientists made and then they lit in on fire!” said Matthew. “I also got chosen to help them with cool experiments!” Matthew and his grandfather learned all about outer space through lectures on the past, present and future of space exploration and were thrilled to see the recent rocket launch headed for Mars. To make his wish complete, Kids Wish Network has also arranged for Matthew to visit the Kennedy Space Center to experience an actual space shuttle launch.
Space Camp was truly a blast for Matthew who will always remember when like Buzz Lightyear, he too went “to infinity and beyond” when his lifelong dream came true.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of their wish granting services, please call (813)891-9374 or toll free at (888)918-9004. You can also visit its web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.