Bravery and kindness land 12-year-old a ‘hero’ nomination

A 12-year-old boy with a serious illness was awarded the Kids Wish Network Hero of the Month for October. The award was made possible by Kids Wish Network and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Philadelphia.

Dustin suffers from a disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta – also known as Brittle Bones. OI causes Dustin’s bones to be broken very easily and in his 12 years he has broken over 120 bones. Dustin’s father, Michael, said although it has been tough, Dustin is doing well.

“He just had his 20th surgery to have his spine fused. He is the only child in the world with titanium ribs,” Michael said. “He is doing good. It’s been a long road. He has had 20 surgeries since 2003.”

Kids Wish Network is a national children’s charity that has various programs including wish granting for children with life threatening illnesses and the Hero of the Month program. The Hero program recognizes children who do not have a life threatening illness, but have faced difficult circumstances and oftentimes endured a lot of pain. Kids Wish Network works with facilities across the country to nominate one child per facility each month.

Dustin is the October Hero for Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Philadelphia.

“I was excited when I heard about his nomination,” said Michael. “We are keeping it a surprise from Dustin until he gets his awards.”

Each Hero is given a t-shirt, a medal of honor, a certificate and a gift card to Wal-Mart or Target valued between $200 and $500 depending on the child’s age. Dustin will be given a $400 gift card to Wal-Mart.

Although Dustin could have been nominated based on his painful illness alone, there is something special about him that made the nurses and child life specialists at Shriner’s decide to choose him as their October Hero. When he is not at the hospital getting treated for a broken bone, Dustin is at home making small pillows to give to the other children at the hospital.

“When we were there for one of his surgeries they gave a pillow to prop his arm up with the IV. Dustin has learned to sew from my wife and they took the project upon themselves,” Michael said. “We’ve taken pillows three times and we took 107 this last time.”

The pillows are distributed by the nurses to the children who are admitted into the hospital. One of the nurses who works with Dustin, Mary Ann, helps give out his hand-made pillows.

“We try to give every child a stuffed toy or something and he started making them and recruited his family. They are like fleecy pillows and the children like them and we can use them for propping up an arm or making the child more comfortable,” she said.

Although Michael and his wife have not told their son about his nomination, Michael said that he knows Dustin will be excited.

“I think it’s great. It’s just a great program,” he said.

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. Aside from granting wishes, Kids Wish Network also has several other programs which benefit children’s care facilities. 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


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