Sam’s wish was inspired by a school project. Around the time that he found out that he was eligible for a wish, he had just completed his 5th grade state report on Alaska. He was fascinated with everything the state had to offer–the nature, the wildlife, and especially the sled dogs.
Sam is an adventurous child. Different than his older brothers, who are more sports-oriented, he’s always been interested in trying new things–everything from music and theater, to soccer and swimming, and arts and crafts. He ran for student council at his school, completed his volunteer training at the Animal Rescue Foundation, and took French lessons.
Sam is also known for his positive attitude, which has been a huge gift as he faces an upward battle with his health at such a young age. He’s always smiling. “Sam is such a joyful child,” says his mother, Mary. “We are blessed by his personality and ability to manage this.”
In April 2018, Sam was diagnosed with a rare soft-tissue tumor behind his left knee. This class of tumor is often difficult to excise, and Sam’s is considered inoperable because it is wrapped around too much of his tissue, muscle, nerves, and vascular function.
Over the past year, Sam’s tumor has attached itself to the muscle behind his knee and upper calf, making it difficult for him to stay mobile without the use of a knee scooter. Doctors have been working to shrink Sam’s tumor with chemotherapy, but it’s not a simple task. “This isn’t a quick ‘treat-it’ cancer,” says Mary. “It's a marathon, and he's at mile one.”
“It’s not very often that he goes down the ‘why me?’ or ‘poor me!’ road where his leg is concerned,” says Mary. “Does he like taking medicine and handling side effects all the time, getting poked at the doctors, and managing his lack of mobility? Not at all! But he really has a great attitude about what has happened to him. He's tough!”
Inspired by his report, Sam wished to visit Alaska, and Make-A-Wish Alaska & Washington put together an unforgettable trip for the family. “The organizers did a fantastic job of selecting activities that Sam would love,” says Mary.
They spent a day fishing, received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and even went on a dog mushing excursion. Sam had the chance to meet an Iditarod musher and his dogs, harness a few of the dogs and mush behind them himself, and then meet and play with the new puppies.
“The smiles in our pictures pretty much speak for themselves,” says Mary. “He loved all of it!”
Mary and her husband Dan initially hesitated about referring Sam for a wish. “We felt that we have the means to travel and buy him things, and that kids who have a more ‘grave’ or ‘difficult’ diagnosis should receive wishes,” Mary explains.
Sam’s hematology-oncology nurse at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital encouraged them to consider it, emphasizing the family’s need to recharge ahead of a long fight against a significant medical condition. “Deep down, I really think that both Dan and I didn't want Sam to have what he's got,” says Mary. “We didn't want it to be significant; we wanted it to go away quickly.”
Mary says that the trip had a substantial impact on Sam. “Positive experiences help with healing, and Make-A-Wish offers a definite way to help kids—mentally, physically, and spiritually,” she explains. “Kids need to believe in a miracle for themselves, that dreams can come true.”
Today, Mary and Dan still often hear that Sam is ‘always smiling’ and ‘so joyful.’ They continue to monitor whether the chemotherapy is shrinking his tumor–it tends to react slowly, so they won’t immediately know if his treatment is successful.
As he continues with his treatment, Sam now has many happy memories to look back on. “He talks about it often with his buddies and loves the pictures and mementos from the trip,” says Mary. “Alaska really did and still does make him smile a little bit bigger.”
Sam’s wish was adopted by Solid Personnel. Our Adopt-A-Wish program offers a unique opportunity to make an immediate, direct and substantial impact on the life of a child by underwriting the average cost of a wish with a donation of $10,000. Thank you, Solid Personnel, for helping make wishes like Sam’s come true!
We rely on wish referrals from caring individuals to help us reach more kids with critical illnesses every year. Anyone can refer a child and help grant them a wish that will provide them with lasting happy memories. Please visit the “Refer a Child” section of our website to learn more.