For most kids dealing with a critical illness, “slime” is a word most often used to reference infections, bacteria or other scary things that could mean more time in the hospital.
For 6-year-old Jon, “slime” was his biggest wish.
Of course, Jon’s wish was in 1998, when shows like Nickelodeon’s Double Dare regularly slimed its contestants, who volunteered for the opportunity to compete in obstacle courses and trivia challenges in front of a live audience.
Jon, who was battling a rare brain deteriorating disease, wished to be slimed at Nickelodeon Studios when he was told he qualified for a wish.
“I was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy one year after I was born,” said Jon, who is now 25 years old. “ALD is most common in young boys and it is so severe that patients can become brain dead not long after they are diagnosed.”
This devastating diagnosis hit Jon’s family twice as hard.
“My older brother had ALD and within a year of being diagnosed, he couldn’t walk or talk and had difficulty breathing on his own,” said Jon. “While doctors caught mine early because of my brother, for most people it was too late and there was no treatment and no cure.”
In between tests and MRI screenings, the possibility of a wish gave Jon hope when his doctors and his family had very little hope for his recovery.
“I was going through all these medical procedures, chemo and radiation, but I was still just a kid,” said Jon. “My wish gave me the opportunity to leave all that behind me and be a normal 6-year-old kid.”
Jon’s doctors were uncertain about how much time he had left, so his wish happened quickly. His family traveled to Nickelodeon Studios, located in Florida’s Universal Studios, and attended one of the theme park’s live Double Dare shows.
“I was in the first row of the bleachers and they picked me to go on stage,” said Jon. “I didn’t even realize I was there for my wish, I thought it was just a coincidence and I was so excited. Then, I was asked to change into a jumpsuit. They put me on stage and dumped a five-gallon buckets of green slime over my head!”
“The experience lifted my spirits and I had no reminders of ALD throughout the entire week,” said Jon. After he was slimed, he and his family also enjoyed going to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot Theme Park.
To this day, Jon remembers the green goo of his wish but his favorite memory of the week isn’t the slime or the rides. It was with the time spent with his family.
“My brother needed 24-hour nursing care so this was the first time I remember being with both of my parents at the same time,” said Jon. “It was a simple wish, but the time with my family meant everything to me.”
After returning home, Jon and his family were reinvigorated, focusing on the fact that he had no symptoms during his wish.
His doctors and his family agreed to have him be part of one of the first experimental trials for ALD, which included one of the first successful bone marrow transplants for his condition!
“I didn’t understand everything I was going through at the time or how serious my condition was, but I know that today, I am still one of the few people with ALD to survive to adulthood,” said Jon.
His brother, unfortunately, did not recover from the diagnosis and lost his battle but Jon uses that knowledge as inspiration to do more with his life every day.
“I have no cognitive or physical effects of ALD, they are totally gone,” said Jon. “I was diagnosed with a brain deteriorating disease with no cure, and I survived and went on to become an engineer.”
“I am living proof that hope and happiness can make a difference,” he continued.
Now, Jon is active in advocating for pre-screenings for ALD and also volunteers as a Make-A-Wish Arizona wish granter.
“I work in the same building as Make-A-Wish America,” he said. “It was such a coincidence that I knew it was time to help other wish kids have the same kind of experience I had.”
Jon has returned to Nickelodeon Studios a few times since his wish and proudly displays a plaque that shows his “slime” wish in his office.
“It’s a memento of the experience and a part of my life that is very important to me,” he said. “I know first-hand the kind of joy a wish can bring. As a volunteer, I now see that in other kids and it continues to give me hope.”