Nine-year-old Dyson, a boy with a rare inflammatory disease, thought he was attending a three-on-three basketball tournament at the Mountain Home Junior High School on Friday afternoon. Instead, he was surprised to learn his Make-A-Wish dream of visiting Lego World in Orlando was being granted.
Dyson, who has been diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, was sitting in the bleachers with classmates from Mountain Home Christian Academy when the festivities began, with junior high counselor Cara Coleman announcing a drawing for door prizes. Two names were drawn, with the winners receiving gift cards.
When the third name was drawn, she announced Dyson’s name. When he came forward, she said, “I don’t know what the prize is, but they do.”
As she turned the boy around cheering students were holding a large banner reading, “Your Wish Has Been Granted,” and his mother, siblings, family members and volunteers from Make-A-Wish emerged from the locker room.
Dyson’s reaction, as he rushed into his mother’s arms, was shock and surprise.
“I was super happy,” he said. His mom, Tessi, was “overwhelmed,” and said, “I am so excited for him.”
It was nearly two and a half years ago when Dyson, whose last name cannot be given, was diagnosed with the incurable autoimmune disease which afflicts three in one million children. The disease — which affects the muscles, skin and blood vessels — is triggered by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Treatment is infusions administered every four to six weeks at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, weekly injections, daily medications and the application of sunscreen. The family’s hope is that the disease goes into remission.
Tessi admitted it is hard watching her son go through the treatments he does at the hospital.
“He’s not a big complainer,” she said, “and he has accepted and taken responsibility for his disease by doing his own daily medications.”
His mother administers his weekly injections.
To grant a wish for Dyson, and children like him who have been diagnosed with a critical illness, begins with a referral to Make-A-Wish. Once the child is accepted, they are referred to local Make-A-Wish volunteers who coordinate with the family and local donors to make the wish come true.
Dyson’s team included Paige Vickery, her mother, Phyllis, and aunt, Debbie Bales, from Melbourne. Paige, who has been volunteering with Make-A-Wish since high school, said Dyson’s wish is the 13th she has granted, and each wish is different and cost about $10,000 to grant.
Donor’s make the wish come true. For Dyson’s wish, the donors were the Mountain Home Junior High and Hacker fifth-grade students who raised $1,500 in two weeks, according to Coleman. The other donors were local financial advisor, Larry McGrath, and his wife, Mary.
The McGraths and members of the Midway Eagle Chapter raised $3,500 through fund raising events. The Make-A-Wish Foundation will donate any remaining funds needed to grant the wish.
Coleman said, “I think the junior high students were very good stewards for Dyson. They stepped up big time and made his wish come true.”
The Hackler FBLA students, accompanied by their assistant advisor Robin Queen, attended the event and helped with the reception for family, supporters and Make-A-Wish volunteers held in the school cafeteria.
Isabella Sanders, President of the FBLA chapter, said they wanted to be part of granting Dyson’s wish, “because it makes us happy to help other people.”
One of her fellow FBLA members said, “If I were that person, I would like someone to help me.” A third added, “I hope he had a wonderful day and has a wonderful time in Lego Land.”
This was the first wish the McGraths were part of granting. He said he learned of Make-A-Wish from a client whose grandchild died of brain cancer. “He told me the only bright part of his grandchild’s struggle was the wish granted through Make-A-Wish.
“We will keep going, granting more wishes,” vowed McGrath. Thinking of other children struggling with a critical illness he said, “We hope we never have to grant another wish, but I’m sure we will.”
McGrath applauded the efforts of everyone involved in granting Dyson’s wish.
“The school was awesome,” he said. “They went above and beyond what I ever expected. And the local musicians who donated their time and talent for fund raisers need to be thanked, too.”
Any child with a critical illness between the ages of 2-and-a-half and 18 at the time of referral is eligible for a wish from Make-A-Wish. Children can be referred by medical professionals, parents, guardians or family members.
Anyone interested in referring a child, becoming a Make-A-Wish volunteer or donor can contact the mid-south chapter at 1780 Moriah Woods Blvd., Suite 10, Memphis, TN 38117. Their phone number is (901) 680-9474 and the website is midsouth.wish.org.
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