GRAND PRAIRIE, Tex. – Thirteen-year-old Charles had always dreamed of going to the beach and swimming in the ocean, and Hawaii represented paradise on Earth. To this brave young man who suffers from sickle cell disease, the only thing better than a Hawaiian vacation would be to add in the excitement of the NFL, which is exactly what Kids Wish Network did in sending him to Honolulu for the 2009 NFL Pro Bowl game.
Charles was one-and-a-half years old when he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease, which is a life-long blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape and restrict proper blood flow to his internal organs. Charles has been hospitalized many times during his lifetime, having endured frequent blood diffusions. He is at higher-than-normal risk for infection due to complications that affect his body’s ability to fight illness. He is also afflicted with severe pain and will soon undergo bone marrow transplantation, a risky procedure used only in the most severe sickle cell disease cases.
Charles’ wish began with a call from a Kids Wish Network professional fundraiser to one of Charles’ family members. When asked if she knew of a deserving child who was facing a life-threatening illness, this caring relative knew Charles would benefit from a wish. She nominated him, and soon, Charles’ mother, Jonnetta, was contacted by Charles’ wish coordinator, Vanessa.
Vanessa arranged for the trip of a lifetime to Hawaii for Charles, as well as Jonnetta. Vanessa was able to fulfill his wish of swimming in the warm, sealife-filled waters of the Pacific as well as providing him with some of the most-coveted tickets known to football fans – the NFL Pro-Bowl game.
According to Jonnetta, “Vanessa did a great job coordinating this wish and I’m sure she did a lot of work behind the scenes to make Charles’ wish come true.”
Jonnetta said that Charles was in awe upon his arrival in the Aloha state and couldn’t believe that he was actually in such a beautiful place. He thought it looked liked paradise, and he was really impressed with the ocean waves and the palm trees. “He was excited to swim in the ocean and he was able to do just that everyday. I haven’t seen Charles so excited about starting a day in such a long time,” she said.
In addition to cheering on his team, the NFC, during the Pro-Bowl, Charles was treated to several of the Pro-Bowl festivities that took place prior to the game. He enjoyed the Military Challenge at Kapiolani Park, where he picked up some great souvenirs, and ate “great food and lots and lots of shaved ice,” according to Jonnetta. He also received a private tour of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor with the San Diego Chargers Cheerleading Squad. His mother says he loved being the center of attention amid the bevy of beautiful ladies.
At the All Star Block Party Waikiki, Charles got to taste some of the local flavor of Hawaii, and soak up some of the excitement as he watched various NFL players give interviews and talk with the crowd. At the
Official NFL Pro-Bowl Tailgate Party, Charles met several team mascots, took pictures with NFL cheerleading teams, got NFL temporary tattoos and even managed to secure a few autographs from NFL players who were in town to watch the game.
By far, Charles’ favorite part of going to Hawaii was seeing his team (the NFC) win the Pro Bowl game. As the players exited the field after the game, he was able to catch a glove that was worn during the game and thrown into the stands by one of the NFC players.
Of the family’s experience in Hawaii, Jonnetta said, “The trip has most definitely had a positive effect on Charles. I absolutely love to hear the excitement in his voice as he recalls his time in Hawaii and at the Pro Bowl. Charles gets to relive our time in Hawaii every time he talks to his friends and family members about the trip; he had such a great time.”
“Charles is going into the hospital next month to undergo a bone marrow transplant and this trip was so timely in that his spirits are so high that his anxiety about the transplant is a bit diminished.” To Kids Wish Network, Jonnetta says, “Thank you so very much for this experience, we are very grateful and appreciative of everything that was done to make this dream come true for Charles.”
Kids Wish Network would like to thank the following for helping to make Charles’ wish come true: Alamo Rental Car, The Royal Garden at Waikiki, NFL, State Farm Insurance, Cheeseburger in Paradise, U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, California Pizza Kitchen, Don Ho’s Island Grill, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
Kids Wish Network is a nationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children. If you know a child between the ages of 3 and 18 who may be in need of its wish granting services, please call 727-937-3600 or toll free 888-918-9004. For more information on Kids Wish Network, visit their website at www.kidswishnetwork.org