When Kristina Lambert asked her 10-year-old son Sean what he would have if he could have one wish, his answer shocked her, to say the least.
“His response was, ‘I want to see the presidents,”‘ said Lambert, 35, referring to visiting the graves of United States presidents. “And when I asked why, and he said, ‘Because they have done a lot for us,’ I was pretty surprised.”
It all began about a year and a half ago. Lambert had been researching different organizations across the country that grant the wishes of children with life-threatening diseases.
At the age of 4, Sean was diagnosed with hypotonia, a disorder that causes low muscle tone, often involving low muscle strength. At the time she began her research, Lambert did not know what Sean’s one wish would be or if he would even qualify.
Then she found the Kids Wish Network, based in Florida. When she learned there was a chance Sean could qualify, she asked for his wish.
“But I didn’t say anything about Kids Wish Network, because I didn’t want to get his hopes up and then not have him qualify,” she said.
Sean’s fondness for the past leaders of the U.S. came after he took part in a play at his school, Bi-County Collaborative, in Franklin. The play was about American patriots, and Sean played Thomas Jefferson.
In December 2009, the Lamberts received a letter from Kids Wish Network, saying Sean had made it through the first qualifying stage. The waiting period to receive final confirmation was four to five months.
Then in late January, the Lamberts received another letter; Sean was going to get his wish.
“I was thinking that is why they pushed it through so quickly,” said Sean’s father, Dennis Lambert, 46. “Because it wasn’t the average wish to go to Disneyland that everyone says. They probably looked at it and said ‘Hey, this is pretty unique. Let’s go with this.’ ”
So Sean, his parents and younger brother Dennis, 7, traveled by car to the Washington, D.C., area. Their trip was April 13-19, with Sean visiting and placing roses on the graves of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, William Taft and John F. Kennedy.
The family had private tours of Arlington National Cemetery, Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, George Washington’s home Mount Vernon and the Capitol building.
The Lamberts also visited the Washington Monument, National Cathedral and the National Zoo.
“It was amazing,” Kristina Lambert said. “All the places that had ropes or gates, they opened them for Sean.”
The organization that made it all possible, Kids Wish Network, is based in Holiday, Fla. Started in 1997, its programs grant about 800 wishes annually to children between the ages of 3 and 18 with life-threatening diseases.
“This was a first for us,” said Jill Atchison, Sean’s wish coordinator. “He actually put a rose on each of the president’s graves, which was a nice little addition.”
But the roses were not just for the presidents. While visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the graves of Kennedy and Taft, the Lambert family came upon the funeral service for U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Robert Cottle, 27, who was also a member of the Los Angeles Police Department S.W.A.T team.
Cottle was killed in Afghanistan on March 24 while on Marine Reserve Duty. About 25 members of the Los Angeles Police Department were at the services in full uniform.
Sean gave the officers a rose to put on the officer’s grave at Arlington, and in return, he received a medallion from the LAPD Honor Guard.
“The officer he gave the rose to said that because Sean showed honor to their family, he was now a part of it,” Kristina Lambert said. “He will give people the world if he could.”
Although the experience of a lifetime lasted only a week, the Lamberts plan to visit the graves of at least two more presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, both of whom are buried in a family crypt in Quincy.
“It was amazing,” Kristina Lambert said of the trip. “It was above and beyond our belief.”
Milford Daily News