The Wish Children

In July 2012, Doug and Michael were overjoyed when they welcomed Malaki into their lives. Adopting him was one of the greatest moments they had known and something they had always wanted.

However, shortly after they met Malaki, he began to lose his energy and had difficulty walking.  Doug and Michael knew something was wrong with their energetic little boy.  A visit to the doctor resulted in an alarming assessment that young 2 year-old Malaki had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“We were shell shocked,” recalls Doug. “I remember rushing to Sick Kids, with all of us on the subway, and I was frantically doing research on leukemia on my phone. It was just unbelievable”.

Doug and Michael made sure Malaki was well cared for through all of his treatments at SickKids Hospital. Even though Malaki was going through vigorous therapy, he always managed to stay positive and keep a smile on his face.      

“Even though Malaki was going through this, we were contemplative and joyful that we were with him. We were able to spend this important time together and we bonded, we became a family,” Michael says.

Malaki is now in senior kindergarten and is enjoying every minute of it. Doug and Michael are ecstatic that their son recently completed his last chemotherapy session. Both parents believe that now is the time for some much needed relaxation as a family. After being approved for a wish with The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario, Malaki is still carefully deciding on what his most heartfelt wish will be.

When Raffaele was only 5 years old, doctors discovered a tumour growing on his spinal cord. The tumour was deemed to be cancerous and Raff, as he is more commonly known by his friends and family, underwent surgery and one and a half years of weekly chemotherapy.

Following his original diagnosis and treatment, Raff had MRIs every three months to ensure he remained cancer free. Unfortunately, when Raff was only 8, a routine MRI confirmed the presence of and re-growth of the tumour.

Once again, Raff underwent surgery and this time also endured radiation treatments.

Throughout this long journey, Raff stayed positive and optimistic. Mom, Jody-Lynn was amazed by her son’s response to all he was going through.

“He made it look easy, he’s just that type of person. He rarely complained and was basically very cooperative with everything that was happening to him. He’s an amazing character, a very happy person,” Jody-Lynn says.

Now that Raffaele is 11 years old, he is excited to be planning his most heartfelt wish thanks to The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter – to see a Chicago Black Hawks game in their hometown, Chicago.

Jody-Lynn is grateful to Raff’s Exile team Arbor Memorial for their determination in helping to grant his wish.

“The wish is such a gift for Raff, it’s kind of something he gets to have after everything he has been through,” Jody-Lynn says. “It’s so amazing that there are people in the world that do something like this for Raff and other children like him.  With all the bad news in the world, it’s nice to hear a story about people that give so generously to others without expecting anything in return.” 

John, 9 years old, is non-verbal, requires a manual wheelchair, and has chronic epileptic seizures. When mom, Anne Marie, speaks about him, her pride and love for her son is obvious.

“He is very easy going and happy. John gets joy out of the simple things in life,” Anne Marie says.

When he was only a baby, John contracted meningitis which resulted in acquired brain injury, a life-long condition that requires constant caregiving. The condition presents with similar characteristics to that of cerebral palsy.

Although non-verbal, Anne Marie is certain that her son understands far more than has been assumed, and is now working to help figure out a way to help John to communicate in a way that works better for him.

John loves listening to Taylor Swift, swimming in warm water and going for family walks in his wheelchair.

Anne Marie is grateful to Exile Island for helping to grant John’s wish to go on both a Disney cruise and visit the resort. It is tragically ironic that Anne Marie’s husband was diagnosed with a life threatening illness when John was only 3 years old and sadly passed away two and a half years ago.“I wouldn’t be able to do this on my own so this is amazing,” Anne Marie says.

John and his  younger brother Alex are very excited about the trip and Anne Marie will also be bringing John’s grandmother along for support and to share the unforgettable memories.

2 1/2 years old, Joshua had already endured open heart surgery, cancer surgery, six months of chemotherapy, countless needles, scans and x-rays. Joshey, as he is affectionately called by his family, has continued to defy the odds and overcome every medical challenge he's been faced with.

Joshey had to undergo open heart surgery mere days after he was born. Then, the unthinkable happened when, at only 2 years old, Joshey was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumour, a cancer of the kidneys. Joshey’s tumour was growing so fast that emergency surgery was imperative. Although surgery and chemotherapy were successful, he is WT1 positive; meaning he could develop Wilms’ tumour at any time.  As a result, he is still very closely monitored.

Now 9 years old, he continues to inspire everyone around him. Mom, Natashia describes him as tender-hearted, emotional, sensitive and compassionate.

When Joshey was told he could have his most heartfelt wish granted by The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter, he took his time and really thought long and hard about it, and then excitedly told his family that he would love for them to all go to Disney!

Joshey’s parents, Andrew and Natashia, are very grateful to his Exile team BDO for this rare opportunity to have a family vacation.

“This wish trip would not be possible without the generous donors who support children like Joshey,” Natashia says. “Having almost lost Joshey so many times, and now to see him thriving day to day, the idea of a stress-free vacation, with insurance coverage and every expense covered is beyond our wildest dreams.  Children’s Wish thought of everything and we can’t thank you enough.”  

All Jackson has ever wanted to do is to play baseball.  In 2015, Jackson made it onto an AAA baseball team and worked all winter to be the team's starting pitcher. A sore arm prompted a visit to the doctor which quickly led to a rush visit to SickKids Hospital in Toronto. Jackson was devastated when he heard his diagnosis – Ewing Sarcoma, a cancer of the bone. Jackson’s whole life changed in just a few days.

The 13-year-old went through a grueling regiment of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that halted his ability to play his much-loved sport.

In many ways, Jackson is your typical young teenager; he loves to listen to Drake, play basketball with friends, eat chips, cheesecake and sushi and to cheer on his beloved Toronto Blue Jays.

Remarkably, despite undergoing 14 rounds of chemo, 31 days of radiation and countless blood transfusions over an eight month period, Jackson is now playing baseball again at the competitive level.

Jackson first heard that he would be granted a wish by The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter during some very dark days of treatment. He was feeling discouraged as his blood counts were low, he had just completed radiation and his arm was not in good shape.

“Knowing that Jackson was going to get a wish, immediately perked his spirits up,” his mom, Carolyn says.

As Jackson’s passion is all things baseball, it is no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox would be part of his most heartfelt wish. Jackson would love to meet both teams and to see a game at Fenway Park.

Carolyn and Jackson’s dad, Derek are incredibly grateful to Eckler for helping to grant Jackson’s wish.

“What you are doing for Jackson is a really powerful thing for him. The wish is definitely something that he is really looking forward to. The wish means that he is starting to think about the road ahead, not behind, and that there is a future where he will be better,” Carolyn says.

Adrijana marvels at her son Adam’s ability to always be happy. At only 3 years old, he is already showing intelligence and maturity beyond his years.

Perhaps Adam’s maturity comes from the medical struggle he endured when he was only a baby. Shortly after Adam was born it was evident that he had a growth that was increasing rapidly on his hand. Following a biopsy, Adam was diagnosed with infantile fibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumour found at the ends of bones of the arm or legs.

Adam underwent five months of chemotherapy to help shrink the tumour and had a lengthy surgery only a day after his first birthday.

Adam's parents, Adrijana and Marcin are grateful that Adam was too young to remember the hardship of his chemo treatments and surgery.

He is a typical little boy who loves Star Wars and superheroes, watching cartoons, visiting Toys R Us, eating chocolate cake and playing with his dog, Teddy. Adam wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.

For now, the family is excited that Adam has been approved for a wish with The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter and has decided to go on a Disney Cruise. “It’s a dream come true for a parent to know that there are people that are willing to help children like Adam. After everything he has gone through, it gives us so much happiness to see a smile on Adam’s face. Knowing the joy he will get to experience on his wish is something that we are so thankful for,” Adrijana says. 

At the beginning of 2015, Tanya and John felt numb when they received the news that their daughter, Ella, who was 10 years old at the time, had osteosarcoma, a cancer that starts in the bones. In Ella’s case, she had an aggressive tumour in her femur. She immediately began chemotherapy, had surgery and continued with more rounds of chemo spending more than five months hospitalized, most of that time in traction. Doctors were able to save Ella’s leg but she does have titanium from her hip down to her foot.

It was a tremendously challenging time for Ella and her family but her strength and spirit was a true inspiration for them. While “harnessed” to a hospital bed for all those months, Ella began cutting out and pasting pictures of white sandy beaches into a notebook. Tanya believes this activity was a way for Ella to focus on the future, when she got out of the hospital.

“Just being able to imagine walking on the beach was something that lifted her spirits and helped her imagine her future,” Tanya says.

Now, Ella is looking forward to her most heartfelt wish being granted in 2017 thanks to the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter – a trip to a white sandy beach in Jamaica with her mom and dad. The trip is a symbolic event for Ella and her parents after everything she has endured with her treatment.

“This wish trip is overwhelming for sure. We are so humbled by all the love, generosity and compassion we are being shown during this time. The trip to Jamaica is huge for Ella. I have seen the shift happening for her with all the planning and research; she is now focused on that. Just for her to be able to physically walk on the beach and into the water means everything,” Tanya says.

Three years ago at age 5, little Kristina became very ill and was rushed to Sick Kids where, sadly, she was diagnosed with a life threatening kidney disease. During her stay in the hospital, Kristina had several operations, including a kidney transplant.

Her mom, Joy was scared and emotional during this frightening time and was unsure of her daughter’s future.

“I use to cry myself to sleep every night and Kristina would say to me ‘don't cry mommy, it will be ok,” says Joy.

Kristina is now 8 years old and is a remarkably strong little girl whose only complaint during her months of operations and recovery was that she couldn't go outside to play. Kristina received a kidney through the cross match exchange program; Kristina’s dad was able to donate his kidney to help someone the family didn’t know and in turn, Kristina got her donor kidney.

Kristina made a remarkable recovery and within a few months was released from hospital.

She is now a very talkative, strong little girl.

“She has always been a shining light in our lives and now she brings joy to those that meet her in school and elsewhere. She is very outgoing and not afraid of anything,” Joy says proudly.

Kristina loves princesses, and has watched practically every Disney movie ever made.  When a friend mentioned that she might be eligible for a wish with The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter, Joy contacted the foundation right away. The family, including Kristina's two older siblings, is anticipating their future wish trip to Disney World with excitement.

“Children’s Wish is amazing and so are their kind donors like our Exile Team.  I have read many articles of what they have done for all the children in the past and many bring tears to my eyes as I too am now part of their immense generosity,” Joy says.

Daniel, 5 years old, was born with chromosome 13q deletion, a disorder characterised by congenital malformations and intellectual disability. At the age of 10 months, he developed Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eyes, for which he was in treatment for a year. Most recently Daniel has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder that is highly unresponsive to medication. Daniel lives in constant pain with very little comfort.

Daniel, like so many boys his age, enjoys going to the park and playing on the swings, watching Treehouse on TV, relaxing in the pool and hot tub and hanging out with his family and friends. By far however, Daniel’s greatest joy is watching the Wiggles.

Ashley says, “when the Wiggles DVD goes on, there is a peace and joy that comes over Daniel that only the Wiggles can provide.“

Daniel’s greatest and most heartfelt wish is to see the Wiggles in concert.

The ability to see the Wiggles live is something that Ashley could only dream about. With the support of Rexall Foundation helping to grant Daniel’s wish, Ashley is looking forward to seeing her son experience pure happiness.

Seeing the Wiggles live in concert is an amazing wish for Daniel, and is something that Ashley, who had to quit her job in 2014 in order to devote herself full-time to her son’s care, could not otherwise provide.

“I could never ever do this for Daniel on my own. The support means everything to me. Daniel has had a very hard five years and cries a lot due to chronic pain but during his wish at the Wiggles Concert he will be full of joy and peace and this is something for which I will be forever grateful,” Ashley says. 

In many ways, Larissa is a typical 16 year old girl. She likes hanging out with friends, listening to Beyoncé, playing sports, shopping at Forever 21 and eating cheesecake. However, Larissa is anything but typical when you understand the long and difficult medical journey she has endured.

To mom, Petronella, Larissa is extraordinary. “She is awesome, she’s my hero, she is my everything.” 

At the age of 12, Larissa was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone.  Like Larissa, most people diagnosed with this type of cancer are under the age of 25 and have to undergo extremely aggressive therapies and treatments.

Larissa has now completed her treatment and her wish is something that she has been planning and anticipating for years.  Larissa would like to take a Mediterranean cruise with her mom in the next year.

“I wanted to wait and take my trip when I was well and knew what I wanted to do, this is a once in a lifetime experience,” Larissa says.

Petronella and Larissa are extremely grateful to Trisura #1, who are fundraising to support Larissa’s wish through The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter.

 “When I was sick and lost all control of my own body and any decisions about how to care for my health, the gift of knowing I was able to plan a once in a lifetime wish was and is huge. And to think that strangers cared enough for me to make that possible is what got me through some of my toughest times during treatment.  It’s amazing that a people I don’t know would be so willing to grant someone a wish. Thank you so much,” Larissa says.

When Gavin was only 2 years old he had already been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in treatment.  During his seven months of active treatment, his little imagination was working overtime.  He used to tell his parents that he was leaving on an airplane to China, ‘which was a bit of a shock at first’ says Erika, Gavin’s mom.

“We learned to play along and began asking him what he was going to pack and what he would do in China.  This became a game that the family played a lot while visiting the hospital, it seemed to get us through,” Erika says.

Once Gavin was post-treatment, he was told that he was approved for a wish with The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter.  When his mom asked him what his wish was going to be, without hesitation he looked at her and exclaimed ‘China!’.  Of course it was China; he had been imagining this trip since he was 2 years old!

After Gavin’s treatment he developed a secondary condition that put the trip to China on hold for a while, but today, Gavin is doing very well and is thrilled to be taking his family of four to Hong Kong.

“This wish was a great surprise; our family had been so focused on treatment for so long that they couldn’t wait to tell Gavin that he was getting his very own wish,”  Erika says.

Gavin's parents are extremely thankful to Children’s Wish and the incredible members of Gavin’s Exile Team Trisura #2 for making his imaginary game a reality.  “We never dreamed he would actually get to go to China,” Erika says.

Francine and Jared enjoy each and every day with their son, 3-year-old Cristiano is their “miracle baby” who spent his first 507 days in the hospital.

“We lost him 10 times during that first year and a half of his life, it’s a miracle he’s still with us,” Francine says.

Three-year-old Cristiano was born prematurely at 26 weeks with some of his organs on the outside; his liver, stomach and intestines were all inside the umbilical cord. The condition is called oomphalocele.

Yet despite all obstacles Francine describes Cristiano as a remarkable little boy, “he is the happiest kid you will ever meet”.

Due to ongoing medical issues, Francine and Jared try to live each day to the fullest with their only child.

Cristiano is now just beginning to learn to walk and talk, milestones that were not reached sooner because of his long hospital stay and his fight to survive.

His dad is a big fan of the Toronto Blue Jays and it is not surprising that amongst Cristiano’s first words spoken are the words to his favourite song, “Okay, Blue Jays”.

Cristiano’s most heartfelt wish is to visit Disney and meet all his favourite characters. His mom, Francine is extremely grateful to The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter and Workday for helping to grant his wish, a trip with Cristiano would otherwise be impossible for the family.

“Cristiano has a trach and is on a ventilator. We would never ever be able to travel with him. Without Children’s Wish, we could never get travel insurance and we wouldn’t be able to afford a nurse to help us on the trip. Before Children’s Wish, we couldn’t even dream of a trip like this. Workday is giving us something so huge – just for us to be able to see Cristiano smiling, while on a Disney ride, is unimaginable for us. Thank you!” Francine says.

When Sergio was just a baby, doctors discovered a tumour in the frontal lobe of his brain and his parents were shocked when Sergio was diagnosed with Astrocytoma, a brain tumour. 

The moment of diagnosis changed their lives forever. Sergio underwent chemotherapy treatment to reduce the tumour and treatment was successful, which is why his parents were shocked when the tumour grew back when he was just 2 years old. However, this time young Sergio was bleeding from the brain and suffered a stroke. Sergio underwent chemotherapy treatment again, this time the treatment went on for a year.

Unbelievably, the tumour grew back a third time and Sergio underwent extensive chemotherapy treatment.

Today, when you ask about Sergio who is now is 8 years-old, his Mom Carmen will tell you “He’s really, really, really, really good!”

In many ways Sergio is your typical little boy who loves hot dogs, fries, Justin Bieber, going to the Disney store and Toys R Us, eating cake and whipped cream and following his favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But Sergio’s medical journey is far from over. The stroke he suffered when still an infant left him with hemiplegia, a paralysis or weakness on one side of his body. Sergio goes for an MRI every three months and receives regular therapy sessions for his speech and movement.

After being approved for a wish by The Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter, Sergio is still deciding on what his most heartfelt wish will be, but Carmen is extremely happy knowing that one day the entire family, which includes 3 year old Joaquin, will be able to fully enjoy this amazing opportunity together.

“Every day Sergio has to go for some appointment, or therapy or test. The wish means an escape from reality, where he can just be a kid and not have to worry about tests, or treatments or hospitals. It’s going to be amazing,” Carmen says.

Jordan was 16 when he was diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia.  His family was informed that he was going to be hospitalized for six to eight months and endure four rounds of chemotherapy.  During Jordan’s treatment, it became evident that he would need a bone marrow transplant, but finding a match was not a simple task.  Finally they found a match from Europe, and the transplant was a success!  Jordan then began his heroic road to recovery.  During treatment, Jordan’s family moved from the Windsor area to London permanently; mom, dad and two of his three siblings were uprooted and moved so that they could be with Jordan during his difficult battle. 

As a little boy Jordan was very active and kind, always thinking of how he could help others. Jordan was known for cheering for the underdog, befriending the quiet kid in class and including everyone. From a very young age, he idolized policemen and the army. Jordan had a plan; he was going to join the army to help protect people and then after that, he would become a police officer so he could keep making sure people were protected. He even joined army cadets as he got older. He hasn't taken that off the table but since being diagnosed he has decided to explore health care as a career. He wants to help people who have gone through what he has. This year, Jordan is in grade 12 and is doing a co-op placement at the hospital and also doing a high skills major in a health care program.

 We are happy to report that Jordan is now cancer free and in remission!   When Jordan was told that his most heartfelt wish would be granted by The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, Ontario Chapter he knew he wanted to go to New York City to visit the 9-11 Memorial and the Macy’s Day parade.  Jordan has always wanted to go to New York City and has spent many hours researching the 9-11 tragedy.  “This is a dream come true for him to be able to pay his respects in person,” says his mom Melissa.  When word travelled through the oncology ward of what Jordan had wished for, the nurses who knew Jordan were so excited because this wish was “so him.”   

His mom Melissa is excited because the brave family of five have never been on an airplane; only road trips for this family.  So to experience New York and celebrate Jordan’s wish and victory together is a great gift to all of them.

Melissa says “Thank you to the donors, your generosity and kindness during our worst nightmare is something I cannot thank you enough for.  This wish is giving my entire family hope and laughter, smiles and joy.  We need all of those things so badly to heal.  Our lives have been turned upside down over the past few years and this is a beautiful gift that keeps on giving.”