In honor of our 35th Anniversary in 2019, we will be focusing on some of the more than 8,500 wishes we have granted in our history. Here is an update on a wish we granted back in 2004.
At just 18 months old, Kenny was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and his doctors gave him only a 10 percent chance of survival. He and his family faced a difficult 14 months of chemotherapy, administered both at home and in the hospital. His mother, Joyce, recalls administering the chemotherapy at home by crushing the chemo pills, mixing with water, and then using a syringe to shoot the meds into the back of Kenny’s throat.
“Kenny was such an awesome trooper,” she says. “He never complained. In fact, he would hold the syringe and push the plunger. He also liked to flick the air bubbles out of the syringe while we flushed his IV/port lines. He was always joyful. Even during the hardest moments.”
Kenny’s recovery was touch and go throughout the first year. He was hospitalized numerous times with fevers, which required several weeks of treatment. He eventually needed to have tubes surgically put into his ears to drain them. The family held off on his wish during this time because they were focused on his recovery.
Joyce says that although Kenny’s fight with cancer was hard on the entire family, it was also a time for their community to come together and provide support. “We received emails from prayer warriors all over the world,” says Joyce. “Prayer books in Europe, South Korea, the United States, even underground churches in China. Strangers, praying for our son.” Their local church community also brought meals for the family nightly when they were staying in the hospital during Kenny’s treatment.
Thankfully, Kenny’s condition eventually improved, and his family decided he was well and old enough to appreciate his wish—celebrating his 4th birthday with his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. “Kenny was super excited to go to the ballpark,” says Joyce.
On the big day, Kenny and his family took in batting practice, where he had a chance to hang out in the dugout with one of his favorite players, J.T. Snow. Afterwards, they had a meet and greet with some of the players, and Kenny had a chance to hug mascot Lou Seal. Next, the family headed up to join Kenny’s friends for the game, where he was presented with a special goodie bag and joined the crowd for a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
“Make-A-Wish is a light during very difficult and dark times,” Joyce says. “As a parent, I am truly grateful for the big smiles you brought to my son and to our family and friends. It was a moment of closure and a moment to reflect on the blessings.”
Today, Kenny is a healthy 19-year-old college sophomore. Since discovering his love of teaching while working at a daycare, Kenny is pursuing teaching credentials along with his business degree. His goal is to develop and oversee his own childcare center. He also dreams of one day creating a nonprofit space (maybe an island!) where sick children and their families can vacation together, cost-free.
“Kenny’s heart is so big!” says Joyce. “He longs to make a difference for other sick kids and to pass on the blessings that Make-A-Wish gave to him.”
The family continues to look for opportunities to pay it forward. Kenny now gives back to our chapter as an inaugural member of our Wish It Forward program for wish families. He’s also joined our 35th anniversary 35 for 35 Campaign, pledging to raise 35 gifts of $35 to support Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.
Kenny will be a featured guest at our Brave the Bay event on December 7, where he’ll help kick off the Cable Car Pull for Wishes, along with his best friend and fellow Make-A-Wish alumni, Brett, who had a heart transplant. The two met in middle school before realizing they shared the experience of having their wish granted. “It’s so cool how God has blessed both of these boys with second chances and how they found each other,” says Joyce.
“Being invited to come back and support Make-A-Wish is an honor,” says Kenny. “I’m really grateful to Make-A-Wish for making my wish come true, and I want to help make that opportunity available to many more sick kids.”
Join us on December 7 at Brave the Bay, a unique, team-based fundraising event featuring three athletic challenges. When you fundraise for Brave the Bay, you help grant the wishes of Bay Area children like Kenny.