Olathe & Southwest Joco

January 28, 2014

Make-A-Wish gala helps bring bring dreams to life for families

Night of Wishes will be held Friday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Ten-year-old Gavin Beaver of Overland Park is looking forward to touring a castle when he gets the opportunity to visit Scotland this summer. As long as it’s not haunted, he likes to joke to his mother, Julie.

Joking and laughing are things the Beaver family is looking forward to doing more of now that Gavin has completed a daunting 17 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation as part of his treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer.

Doctors found a tumor near his spine a year ago. A social worker approached Gavin’s mom during his stay at Children’s Mercy Hospital and told her that Gavin would be eligible to have a wish granted through the national nonprofit group Make-A-Wish. Julie put it in the back of her mind until he finished his treatment in October.

Now she’s hoping this trip-of-a-lifetime — his interest in Scotland comes from a friend whose mother is Scottish — will bring a smile back to her son’s face and make up for last year’s disappointing summer.

“Last year, he didn’t get to do anything,” Julie Beaver said. “His summer was spent at home. He couldn’t go swimming or outside because his immune system was compromised.”

The whole purpose of the Make-A-Wish organization is to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization estimates that it grants a child’s wish every 38 minutes.

And it does so with money raised through various fundraisers — like the Night of Wishes fundraiser scheduled for 6 p.m., Friday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Super Bowl-weekend celebration is sponsored by Make-A-Wish Missouri, which granted 101 wishes to children in the Kansas City area in 2013.

Night of Wishes features a night of fun with former Kansas City Chiefs football players. Those attending will be treated to dinner and the chance to play games alongside former Chiefs’ players Brad Cottam, Anthony Davis, Mark Simoneau and Casey Wiegmann. Attendees can also buy raffle tickets to win jewelry from Helzberg Diamonds and bid on items in a live auction.

Event organizers say they are hoping to raise $200,000 at the event, up from the $175,000 raised last year. The money will go toward granting wishes like dream vacations, which they believe can be a blessing to the entire family of a child facing a serious illness.

“They can let that stress go and gain more strength to keep going,” Night of Wishes event coordinator Laurie Ingram said. “Families are so busy taking care of the emergency at hand that the important big picture sometimes fades into the background.”

Amie Damotte of Lee’s Summit knows firsthand how therapeutic it can be for a child and the family to have a wish granted. Her daughter Gretchen received the gift of a Disney cruise in February 2012.

Since May 2011, Gretchen has been battling acute renal failure and vasculitis, a disease that has damaged her kidneys and has caused two brain hemorrhages.

During her two-month stay in the hospital, Gretchen spent a lot of time watching the Disney Channel on television and became enamored with one of Disney’s newest cruise ships she saw on a commercial. Once she was well enough to travel and swim again, Make-A-Wish granted her request. They even surprised her with a chance to fulfill another lifelong dream — to swim with dolphins.

“The experience of watching your child in pain and afraid of the future and then to see the joy on her face while swimming with dolphins and having time away from everything she is going through brought joy and peace to me as a parent,” Damotte said.

Traci Kuhn of Olathe saw the joy on her son Jaxon’s face when he was a granted a trip through Make-A-Wish to Disney’s California Adventure Park last October. Six-year-old Jaxon suffers from a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He’s undergone three open-heart surgeries. Seeing Jaxon interacting with characters from his favorite Disney movie, “Cars,” brought great joy to the entire family.

“It’s a memory that we will never forget,” Traci Kuhn said. “The trip gave us a good memory instead of just picturing all of those long nights in the hospital.”

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