After a devastating cancer diagnosis, Michael spent his days undergoing treatment and dreaming of being able to get back to his normal life. Now, 30 years after his wish, Michael is a volunteer wish granter who helps kids just like him discover their one true wish.
“I probably have more memories of my wish than the five years of treatment and chemotherapy,” said Michael, who traveled to Walt Disney World with his family when he was 5 years old.
In fact, just looking forward to his wish gave Michael hope after cancer took away his childhood.
“Michael started kindergarten then relapsed right at the end of the treatment. At that point we weren’t getting much good news,” said Michael’s mom, Julie. “He was on some really heavy chemo at the time and we were at the hospital about four days a week. He wasn’t able to go to school anymore so he couldn’t see his friends and I remember that’s when Make-A-Wish came to visit us.”
Michael wished to go to Walt Disney World because he often watched Disney movies when he was in the hospital and he’d never been there before - and the trip was everything he imagined.
“I remember getting picked up by the limo and the driver did the Donald Duck voice the whole way there,” he said with a laugh. “We had front-of-the-line passes for every ride and going to the theme parks and having breakfast with the characters are such positive memories for me now, even 30 years later.”
“It was a fantastic break from everything,” said Julie. “A lot of the memories of hospitals and treatment kind of blurred and we remember the good things. Michael was back to being a kid again, which was something we really needed.”
Today, Michael and his mom are Make-A-Wish Arizona volunteers and they recently granted their first wish together.
“I decided to become a volunteer to see what I could do to give back because of everything I’d heard about the organization and the experiences I remember from my wish,” said Michael, who has already granted seven wishes.
While Make-A-Wish has grown to be a worldwide organization, both Michael and Julie believe it hasn’t changed much since their experience in 1989.
“It still feels like that same personal experience when Michael received a wish,” Julie said. “I think we can understand what the parents are going through and what pressure they’re under, and it’s helpful for them to see somebody who was a wish kid that has now grown up and made it through their illness.”
“I haven’t found this kind of connection at most other places I’ve worked or volunteered,” said Michael. “Now I have the chance to give someone else the same happy memories that I had and I’m grateful that I can give that back to someone else.”