Ethan Dotson grinned widely Wednesday when he learned that the electronics store in the Bristol Mall had the laptop computer he was seeking.
Like many other teenagers, the 19-year-old senior at Hurley High School enjoys computers and video games. Unlike his classmates, however, a serious health condition limits his mobility and can make a normal day anything but. On Wednesday, Ethan and his family enjoyed a shopping spree courtesy of the local mall and the Florida-based Kids Wish Network.
“They asked what I wanted and I just wanted to go on a shopping spree. I wanted to get a new laptop computer because my other one is broken,” he said. “I wanted that and some other small stuff.”
The nonprofit network provided $750 to fulfill that wish while the mall provided $100 and a number of merchants supplied gift certificates that brought the total to about $1,000.
Some merchants donated gifts, including a new pair of Nike shoes, and Ethan and his family ate lunch at the mall cafeteria.
Ethan has endured six surgical procedures, including open-heart surgery twice for a condition that changes the flow of blood through his heart. In 2009, doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center installed a stent they hope addresses the problem temporarily, said his mother, Anita Dotson.
“All the doctors said he was a miracle baby,” Anita Dotson said. “When he was born, his esophagus wasn’t formed properly and was connected to his lung and he had to have surgery for that. We brought him home with a feeding tube.”
Doctors consider Ethan’s long-term prognosis uncertain and expect additional surgery will be needed, his mother said.
“He has a checkup once a year, but they hope this stent will work for a couple of years,” she said.
Anita Dotson first learned of the Kids Wish Network when they contacted her.
“They called me asking for a donation and I told them I had a sick child myself. So they began asking me what he wanted,” she said. “We didn’t want to go too far from home, so we came here.”
Heather Hill, marketing manager for the mall, said it was probably the first time the local retail center has been asked to participate in this type of program.
“I’ve been here almost 10 years and this is the first time we’ve been asked about something like this,” Hill said. “They wanted it to be close to his home.”
The Kids Wish Network provides these services nationwide, Coordinator Jill Atchison said in a phone interview.
“We have a number of programs beyond granting wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses. In a year, we might help 750 through all our programs and about 200 a year with life-threatening conditions,” Atchison said.
The program includes children up to their 19th birthday who have life-threatening conditions, Atchison said.