Some kids are scared of roller coasters, but wish kid Carter, 5, is braver than most. While speeding through the darkness on Walt Disney World® Resort’s Space Mountain, Carter was squealing with glee.
His laughter was a welcome sound to his parents, Amanda and Kyle, who have spent so many recent months sitting with Carter in a hospital room during his treatments for leukemia.
“I think the toughest part of all of this for him is that he knows he is different from his friends,” Amanda said. “He knows he has to miss out on some ‘kid stuff’ because he has cancer. He’ll say every now and then, ‘I wish I didn’t have cancer so I wouldn’t get tummy aches,’ and it breaks our hearts.”
When given the opportunity by Make-A-Wish® Michigan to have his wish granted, Carter chose to go where many childhood wishes come true: Walt Disney World® Resort. He had heard about the wonderful things he could do there – the rides he could go on, the characters he could meet – but it never seemed possible that he would go.
“Carter’s dad, Kyle, worked at Disney in college, so he’s always talked about it with Carter,” Amanda said. “Carter has always wanted to go but we’ve never had the money to take him.”
“This was truly a wish come true,” Carter’s grandfather, Ed, said. “My son and daughter-in-law would not be able … to give Carter a vacation experience like this one and our entire family is grateful for the opportunity.”
His mother’s parents, Tim and Janis, and his father’s parents, Ed and Caren, made their own arrangements to join Carter on his wish trip. Though they did not stay overnight at Give Kids The World Village with Carter, Amanda and Kyle, his grandparents were eager to spend every waking minute enjoying the experience with Carter.
“I would like people to know that Make-A-Wish and Give Kids The World [don’t] just send you on a trip,” Ed said. “They send you on a trip of a lifetime. You receive special treatment, like royalty.”
In Carter’s case, his wish trip was a chance, finally, to have some fun.
“I just loved watching him laugh so much,” Amanda said. “I will always remember how much he loved the roller coasters! He laughed and shrieked the entire time, always begging to go on the next larger one. He was fearless!”
Carter’s joy was contagious. Their son’s smile had become a rare sight while he suffered from the aches and pains from blood transfusions and chemotherapy, but the sick patient with an IV of pain medication was almost unrecognizable as the boy now eagerly hugging his icon Mickey Mouse.
“[Make-A-Wish] makes the ‘pokies’ and the ‘tubies’ disappear and let kids get the experiences they deserve,” Amanda said. “It gave us a chance to watch Carter just be a kid and gave Carter a chance to be a kid and not worry about cancer."
Ed has been a supporter of Make-A-Wish Michigan for many years, long before his Carter’s wish trip. But being on the other side of the wish-granting process – facing it as part of a wish family, rather than participating in fundraising – has been an illuminating experience for him.
“Carter’s diagnosis opened my eyes to how many ill children there are and how many families are struggling with illness, not to mention the new struggles facing my son and daughter-in-law,” Ed said.
Through a community service program at his job, Ed won the opportunity to direct a donation of $10,000 to the organization of his choice; he chose to donate the money to Make-A-Wish Michigan, without any way of knowing that his grandson would one day benefit from a wish.
“I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude to know that the charity I selected to receive the community service award funding would now be helping my own family,” Ed said.
Now that they have returned home, the family is as glad as ever for the support they have in family, friends and their Make-A-Wish Michigan community – especially as they reflect on the memories they made on Carter’s wish.
“There are so many families in need of help and many who will benefit from the gifts Make-A-Wish and Give Kids The World offers,” Ed said.