18-year-old Chris has always been an active person with interests ranging from snowboarding to saltwater fishing. His active lifestyle has led to many aches and pains over the years but just last year he began experiencing severe muscle pains like he had never felt before. Doctors checked but could find nothing wrong with him.
In July, the pain was so constant and so intense that Chris was left bedridden. Another trip to the hospital and an MRI later, doctors found a large tumor on his left hip bone. Further testing revealed that Chris had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and that it had spread to his lungs and his bone marrow. He was immediately started on 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation to try to combat the cancer. Since then, doctors discovered that the tumor has returned and Chris has begun additional chemo treatments to slow the spread of the cancer.
During Chris’s chemotherapy treatments in the hospital, a social worker told his mother Gillian that there were organizations that granted wishes to kids facing illnesses like Chris’s. After doing some research, the social worker found that Kids Wish Network was the only organization of its kind to grant wishes to teens once they’ve already turned 18, like Chris.
Once Chris’s application was approved, a Kids Wish Network Wish Coordinator asked him what he wanted to wish for; he replied that he wanted to fish for goliath grouper in Florida.
Of her son’s wish request, Gillian said that “Chris has always loved fishing and being out on the sea. He’s had this goal to move out to Florida and work on boats…goliath grouper are a year-round fish, so whenever we ended up going, he would be able to fish for them.”
Thanks to some outstanding local sponsors in Massachusetts and Florida, including BackOffice Associates who not only helped to fund Chris’s wish but are also providing tickets for the teen and his family to attend a Boston Red Sox home game and sit in their choice of prime seating, Chris’s dream was well on the way to being realized.
After a flight from Massachusetts down to sunny Florida, Chris and his family set out to follow the itinerary that Chris’ Wish Coordinator set up for them. This itinerary included trips to restaurants every evening as well as fishing and boating expeditions every day.
“Everything about the trip was great! She [Chris’s Wish Coordinator] took everything Chris liked and made a trip out of it…it was just incredible,” said Gillian.
Their first activity in Florida was a fishing trip with Captain Mark of Reel 1 Up Fish Charters, who had arranged for a few extra surprises in addition to fishing, unbeknownst to Chris. When Chris and his family arrived, they were met by pitcher Madison Younginer and spring training coach Brett Bodine of the Boston Red Sox. They also brought with them a jersey signed with a personal message to Chris from his favorite Red Sox player, David Ortiz.
“The look on his [Chris’s] face when he saw Madison…I haven’t seen Chris look so happy in a long time,” said Gillian. “They didn’t even know us and they did all this for us. It was amazing.”
Both Madison Younginer and Brett Bodine accompanied Chris, his family and Captain Mark on the fishing trip and Chris could not have been happier. While fishing on that first day, Chris caught a 5-6 foot barracuda, a 480 pound goliath grouper and a 125 pound goliath grouper.
On their second day in Florida, Chris and his family enjoyed a relaxing pontoon boat trip courtesy of Tarpon Bay Explorers. During this trip, they did some light fishing and had a fantastic time learning all about the wildlife and environment in the area with a naturalist who accompanied them on their trip.
For their final full day in the Sunshine State, Chris and his family took another fishing trip, this time with Captain Larry of “Workin’ On It” Fishing Charters. Chris enjoyed a full day of fishing out in the ocean and was even able to keep his catches this time.
“The trip was amazing all around,” said Gillian. “We were so touched by the generosity of everyone involved and it was very emotional at times, but it was just amazing…Chris did come home with aches and pains, but they’re the good kind, from exertion. He starts more chemo tomorrow, but he doesn’t mind because of what he got to do on the trip.”
Kids Wish Network would like to thank the following for making Chris’ wish such a special experience: BackOffice Associates, First Parish Brewster, Elks Lodge #2572, Brewster Police Relief Association, Elks Lodge #1549, Coastal Engineering Co., St. Vincent De Paul, Northside United Methodist Church, First Citizens Federal Credit Union, Workin’ On It Offshore Fishing Charters, Hungry Heron Restaurant, Tarpon Bay Explorers, Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail Inc., Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, The Hertz Corporation/Advantage, West Wind Inn, Reel 1 Up Fish & Dive Charters, Boston Red Sox-Florida Operations, The Timbers Restaurant, Lazy Flamingo, Inc., Sunset Grill Inc., Thistle Lodge and Twilight Café.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children in crisis. Every child deserves a chance at happiness; a wish is just a way of bringing them that joy. If you would like to sponsor a child’s wish or if you know a child who is suffering from a life-threatening illness and may be in need of Kids Wish Network’s wish granting services, please call 727-937-3600 or toll free 888-918-9004. For more information on Kids Wish Network, visit their website at www.kidswishnetwork.org