Trip to Disney World boosts spirits of La Grande teen battling leukemia

Sam Werner is steadily winning his courageous fight against leukemia.

It is a fight that continues to inspire the community — a battle that he and his close-knit family received an invigorating respite from earlier this month.

Werner, who graduated from La Grande High School in 2010, recently visited Disney World in Orlando for three days with his family, a trip completely paid for by the Kids Wish Network, a national charitable organization that helps youths with serious health conditions, and other sponsors.

Werner and his family visited Disney World’s Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom theme parks.

Werner had the time of his life.

“I would love to go back there. We had such a blast,’’ he said.

The Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom was Werner’s favorite. He and his family were transported in a large vehicle through a park-like area filled with African wildlife including cheetahs, lions, wildebeests and more. Werner said he always felt secure. He noted that the animals which could pose threats to people are separated from the main area to provide visitors with further protection. Still, this is not apparent to visitors since animals like the lions and wildebeests are so visible.

Sam visited Orlando with his mother Crystal, father Jamie and sister Tenille. Crystal said the trip boosted everyone’s spirits.

“That was a much-needed getaway from reality. It was perfect,’’ Crystal said.

Her son could not agree more.

“It was invigorating. It was a good opportunity to get away and have a family experience,’’ he said.

Sam was diagnosed in June 2009 with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia, an aggressive form of childhood leukemia. So serious was his condition that he began receiving chemotherapy treatments the day he was diagnosed. Sam received chemotherapy treatments at least once a week at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise for eight months until February 2010 when he entered the maintenance phase of his recovery. For the past year he has received chemotherapy treatments once a month in Boise.

Werner said his condition has improved from a year ago.

“Day to day I feel much better,’’ he said.

Werner, who is interested in pursing a medical career, plans to enroll in classes at Blue Mountain Community College this spring or summer.

The Kids Wish Network provided the Disney World trip to the Werner family with help from La Grande Rotary, Community Bank, Air Link, Ken and Jeanette Knott, Compassion Partners, Wonderworks, Pirates Dinner Adventure Theater, Royal Plaza Hotel, Chevy’s Fresh Mex, Hard Rock Café and Comfort Suites.

Crystal said the trip to Orlando came at an ideal time for her family.

“(The Kids Wish Network) is a blessing for kids. (The trip) was just phenomenal.’’

La Grande Observer
La Grande, Oregon

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.