Ten-year-old Dakota has a passion for sports. Baseball, basketball, football or soccer—you name it, and Dakota plays it.
It’s this passion for sports that ultimately led to Dakota’s diagnosis. “He started getting tired a lot and couldn’t enjoy the activities anymore,” said Dakota’s mom, Doris. “That’s when we first realized something was wrong.”
When doctors diagnosed Dakota with leukemia, everything stopped in its tracks. Instead of coordinating practice schedules and cheering at games, Dakota’s family started shuffling medication schedules and treatment plans and chemotherapy appointments.
On top of the pain of treatment and the trauma of facing a critical illness came another blow. Dakota couldn’t play sports with his friends.
While so much of the family’s life was shrouded in uncertainty, they found glimmer of hope: Dakota would receive a wish through Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington.
“Having a wish to look forward to helped Dakota get through the most difficult parts of treatment,” said Doris. “We kept talking about it. It made him excited about something; it gave him a goal to work towards.”
And that’s not all. Research shows that wishes have the possibility to give kids the hope and strength they need to fight harder.
For Dakota, his wish gave him the encouragement he needed to comply with treatment so he could go on as many rides as possible while at Walt Disney World®
“It got him to go on walks when he didn’t want to; it got him to eat his vegetables,”
Doris said. “He wanted to be able to do everything and make sure his illness didn’t prevent him from anything he wanted to do on his trip.”
Sure enough, Dakota and his family spent a carefree week in Orlando. Their days were filled with amusement parks and pool time; quality family time and laughter.
“Seeing Dakota having fun and smiling nonstop, hearing his laughter again, seeing the excitement and wonder in his eyes—these things were fewer and harder to come by in the year since his diagnosis,” said Doris. “We saw all of that on this trip, because of this trip.”
Since his wish, Dakota continues to see the entire experience as a source of joy. “Some days he’s really down, emotional from steroids and wiped out from treatment,” said Doris. “On those days, we pull up the photos and videos from the trip. They’re great memories that make him happy, make him laugh.”
Now, while Dakota waits it out for another baseball season, he has another reason to celebrate. Dakota will carry on a 20-year-old tradition with his favorite hometown baseball team: the Seattle Mariners.
Every year since 1999, a local wish kid from Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington has helped to kick off the new baseball season during the home opener. These courageous kids have the honor to be the first of the season to make the 90-foot journey from base to base in front of a stadium of cheering fans on Opening Day.
Dakota is still undergoing maintenance chemotherapy once a month. The treatment takes a lot out of him—for weeks at a time. Having this experience gives him a chance to be back on the field, if even for a little while.
“I’ve been a Mariners fan my whole life,” Dakota said. “I like all of the players and I think they are the best in the league. I like the team colors, too, and I like them because they’re from Seattle.”
His favorites? Kyle Seager because he is a great third baseman and a really good hitter. Felix Hernandez because he’s a pitcher like Dakota. Dee Gordon, because he is fast, a good hitter, and he steals bases which, Dakota says, is hard to do.
Dakota predicts, “It’s going to be loud and exciting!”
The Mariners have partnered with Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington for 30 years, granting their first wish in 1989 to six-year-old Jayson who wished to meet Ken Griffey Junior. Special thanks to the entire Mariners organization for their continued support and knocking it out of the park for our wish kids.