CARROLLTON-“We’ve never lied to him, he’s always known what to expect,” said Donna about her teenage son, J.C. And what he can expect is a life full of doctor’s visits and medical problems including congenital myopathy, scoliosis, kyphosis, sleep apnea, and heart defects. Not only was he born with all of these conditions, but he’s also endured many surgical procedures including a tracheostomy, multiple hernia repairs, heel cord surgery, and a complete spinal fusion in attempts to alleviate just some of the ensuing complications. “It’s amazing because he never complains,” said Donna, his mother. “He never has a bad day. He just refuses to look at the negative side of things and I think that’s what gets him through.”
So when professional fundraisers from Kids Wish Network, a charity that grants wishes for children with life threatening illnesses, contacted J.C.’s aunt, she submitted her nephew’s name for a dream. Before long, Wish Coordinator Madeline Robinson had the trip of a lifetime planned for J.C. and his family to the Redwood National Forest. “He just loves nature and seeing what he can of the world,” Donna said. After the family arrived in Northern California, they spent one evening in San Francisco around Fisherman’s Wharf before they headed to the enchanted forest of J.C.’s dreams.
“It was wonderful,” Donna said. “All the people of Crescent City rolled out the red carpet for J.C. and made him feel like a celebrity.” While there, the family soared above the tree tops in a gondola, cruised on a 50 mile boat ride, and took in the sights of the country’s cleanest river. “It looked like an aquarium it was so clear,” Donna said of the pristine water. But of course, J.C. was most amazed by the majestic redwoods. “We just stood there in awe,” said Donna. “It was magnificent to be surrounded by something so amazing. It was probably the most peaceful place I’ve ever been.” Just in case the presence of such grandeur wasn’t enough to satisfy J.C.’s passion for nature, all the local animals made an appearance for him during the week as well; he saw elk, eagles, wild cattle, wild horses, otters and seals.
Though he went there to experience nature, it was the people of Crescent City that may have left the biggest impression on the shy young man and his family. “They all went above and beyond,” Donna said. Although usually withdrawn around strangers, J.C. made friends there quickly. “They all wanted to keep him; I didn’t think I was going to get to bring him home. We definitely didn’t feel like we met any strangers there. It felt like we made connections that will last forever.”
“We knew the trip was going to be good, we just had no idea it would be that good,” Donna said of the whole vacation. “The only way it could have been better was for it to have been a little longer.” She said seeing J.C. enjoy himself was such a treat because he tends to hide his emotions and become withdrawn at times because he knows he is different from other people and has been through so much. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing J.C. smile,” Donna said. “He doesn’t smile much because he is just so shy and partly because his disorder just makes it harder. But we actually have pictures of him smiling; and we have a good picture of him laughing. We don’t see that much and it was wonderful.”
Kids Wish Network would like to graciously thank all of the sponsors that made J.C.’s dream possible: American Airlines, Avis, the Hilton Fisherman’s Wharf, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant, the Penny Saver Inn, Trees of Mystery Gondola tour, the House of Howquanet, the Chart Room, the Jedediah Smith Redwoods and Stout Grove, the Best Western Tuscan Inn, and of course Carol McCall of the Redwood National and State Parks, for showing him the sights and complete hospitality.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to grant wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of their wish granting services, please call (813)891-9374 or toll free at (888)918-9004. You can also visit its web site at www.kidswishnetwork.org.