When 9-year-old William was diagnosed with cancer, he was very shy about losing all his hair.
Then, one of his friends gave him a cowboy hat, and everything changed.
“He became fascinated with the idea of being a cowboy and going to a ranch,” said William’s mother, Katherine. “Ever since he has really enjoyed being with cowboys, and doing cowboy things.”
And this idea helped William push forward during an incredibly difficult time.
“The day William was diagnosed, our whole world stopped,” said Katherine. “Doctors told us that he needed to begin treatment immediately for his advanced burkitt lymphoma and we wouldn’t be going home that night.”
Everything was happening at such an advanced rate, but that didn’t stop Katherine, widow and mother of 12, from being by William’s side along with all his siblings every step of the way.
“When we were first approached about reaching out to Make-A-Wish Arizona, I didn’t feel as though we deserved it,” said Katherine. “I didn’t want to take away this chance from someone else, but when one of William’s nurses pulled me aside and reassured me that this would help not only William, but our entire family be together again, I knew it was something that William needed.”
Soon after, when William sat down with his volunteer wish granters to begin brainstorming ideas for his wish, the choice was easy for him.
“I wear my cowboy hat all the time, even during treatment,” said William. “I knew I wanted to become a cowboy as my one true wish.”
Looking forward to his wish gave William the hope and strength that he needed during treatment. One week before his wish trip, his cancer scans came back clear!
With this happy news fresh on their minds, William, his mother, and all 11 of his siblings headed off to the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson for a week of family fun.
“Riding horses was my favorite part,” said William, who learned how to trot and barrel race. “My horse’s name was Dale and we did a trail ride every day and would ride to the top of the mountain. I even learned how to groom them.”
In addition to horseback riding, William and his family participated in outdoor activities from morning to night including swimming, fishing, and playing tennis.
“William is happiest when he is outside in nature,” said Katherine. “Seeing him so happy in his element is something I will never forget.”
“These kids have medical conditions and fears that no human being, especially a young one, should have to face,” said William’s volunteer wish granter, Julie. “Being able to focus on something else, something positive, is life-changing not only for them but I think for their families as well.”
The memories William made with his family on this trip to the ranch have continued to motivate William to stay strong and healthy.
“Looking back on my wish trip makes me really happy,” said William, who is now recognized as an official cowboy by Tanque Verde Ranch. “I want to be a cowboy when I grow up.”
“Because this wish trip has made such a positive impact on William’s health, we have decided that we are going to return to Tanque Verde Ranch every year for a family vacation,” said Katherine.