Mason’s father, Aaron, is a U.S. Air Force pilot, so his family was stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany when Mason was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. At the time, Mason was only 3 years old.
“We spent the first 40 days in a German hospital before the recommendation from our physician to return to the states was approved,” said Aaron.
Mason dealt with the treatments, the physician visits and the boredom of being stuck in the hospital by watching the only two children’s movies they had – Toy Story 2 and Cars.
It was during these long days in the hospital that Mason found the inspiration behind his wish.
“We must have watched those two movies back-to-back for 20 days straight,” said Aaron.
Mason loved the strong Buzz Lightyear and the funny Woody the best. And even after returning to Phoenix and entering into the cancer program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Mason continued to watch Toy Story 2 and Cars whenever he needed a break.
“As Mason started to feel better, his doctor recommended we contact Make-A-Wish,” said Aaron. “We knew about the organization. We had even donated in the past, but we never really considered Mason for a wish. Our doctor really had to talk to us about what a benefit it would be to Mason, as a way to end the most intense phase of his treatment."
“We had a very hard time accepting that we should do this for Mason. We were used to being the family who gave to charity, not the family who took charity,” he continued.
Luckily, Mason’s doctor convinced his parents that Make-A-Wish Arizona was not charity – it was a reward for all Mason had been through. It was motivation to keep him focused during the next two and a half years of treatment.
“After we met Mason’s volunteer wish granters, we knew we made the right decision,” said Aaron. “They were great. They really talked to him about his favorite places and his favorite people. They were so focused on making the perfect wish for Mason.”
Aaron said Mason was not very familiar with Disney World, considering the family had lived out of the country the year previous to his diagnosis. However, he was very familiar with Buzz Lightyear and when he found out he could visit Buzz at his “home,” Mason was all in!
Mason’s family, including his mom, dad, and new baby sister Brindley, left for his wish to meet Buzz Lightyear and couldn’t believe all of the little touches that changed the wish from fun to incredible.
“There was a perk in everything we did. When we arrived at the airport to leave, Mason was greeted by the Southwest Air crew, who gave him a pilots hat and took him into the cockpit to meet the pilot and co-pilot,” said Aaron. “He was so excited to talk to a pilot about flying and airplanes. And it only got better from there.”
The family was treated to special parking and passes at the park to skip to the front of the lines. Give Kids the World, where they were staying, was always ready with Mason’s favorite vanilla ice cream and his “own” cereal packs for breakfast.
Then, one day during his wish, Mason met the man he had come to see – Buzz Lightyear.
“We were able to spend a bunch of time with Buzz,” said Aaron.
“He was very big and gave me a high five and a hug,” said Mason. “I knew how to do the Buzz Lightyear pose so we posed together, too.”
Meeting completed, Mason then tackled the Buzz Lightyear rides, where he shot lasers and rode a roller coaster in the dark.
“I made a light saber, it was green!” said Mason. “We went on the car ride where you could bump into people and I bumped into a lot of people.”
Aaron said that while Mason may remember Buzz and the cars, what Aaron will remember most is the overwhelming support and excitement he felt from every member of Mason’s wish team, from staff at the parks, and even from people in the airport.
“It was a humbling experience for us, to see all that people were doing for our family,” said Aaron. “We are so grateful for this time together and we will never forget what it meant to our family to have Mason’s wish come true.”