For the first year of his treatment for leukemia, AJ was enamored of the movie Ghostbusters, even making himself his own costume. Being a Ghostbuster “really helped him have fun and put on a brave face” says his mom, Elizabeth.
Unable to play sports, AJ made up for it by using his imagination to make costumes depicting first responders and law enforcement officials.
A respect and admiration for law enforcement runs in AJ’s family. His extended family includes veterans of World War II, Vietnam, and the war in Afghanistan. AJ himself is a cub scout, taking great pride in his uniform and doing flag duty. For him, being in uniform is about honor and bravery.
It took him time to decide on his wish, but his mom didn’t rush him. She didn’t want the anticipation and excitement that goes with it to be cut short, knowing it gave him a glimmer of hope. Although a confident child who lights up the room, "going through leukemia, losing his hair, gaining weight and being hungry a lot made him sometimes cry and cry" says his mom. "There are times when he has looked at me in so much pain." But "having a wish took the ‘why me?’ out of all of it" his mom says.
When AJ decided to be a Secret Service agent for his wish, his mom kept the details a secret. Having a custom-made suit for the occasion was explained as being something to wear for Easter instead. When a limousine arrived for him the day of his wish, AJ let out a long "Awwww!" when he saw it. During the course of the day with members of the real Secret Service, dozens of agents came forward to shake his hand. "I felt so proud and humbled by how huge that moment was. It was just profound" says his mom. "His self worth went up so many notches from there. Armies of men--all with special, high risk, elite positions--shaking his hand. It changed a lot for him. And I can honestly say it was the best day of my life."
"Make-A-Wish just validates that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve had your worst nightmare. So now you get your wildest dream." AJ continues to wear one of his police uniforms every day. And everyday when he gets home from school he says, "Mom, it’s time to go bust some punks!"