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Max's family finds joy and healing

Giving back is a big part of Max's family's life. © Brian David Casey

“ Make-A-Wish brings cancer families back together. ”

- Kari, Max's mom

“Cancer families need a support system to keep going,” says Kari, mom of wish kid Max. “Make-A-Wish is part of that support system. Make-A-Wish heals and strengthens families. Marriages crumble. Families fall apart. Make-A-Wish brings cancer families back together and gives them a chance to feel joy.”

Kari’s son, Max, and his twin sister, Molly, had been doing well from birth to 18 months old. But, while Molly continued reaching her developmental milestones, Max lost his ability to walk and talk. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Max was admitted to the hospital and endured many tests until a neurologist diagnosed him with an extremely rare form of neuroblastoma cancer and a life-threatening autoimmune disease.

Max with his grandma. At age 2 1/2, Max was in treatment when his family learned that he’d get his heartfelt wish—to take a family trip to their favorite Florida theme park. Kari says, “The wish was something he could look forward to while he was in the middle of his chemotherapy protocols.” Sadly, Kari’s mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the same time, and she and Max simultaneously underwent the same chemotherapy. Kari’s parents joined them on the wish trip. Shortly following the trip, Kari’s mother lost her fight with cancer. Kari says, “One of my favorite memories is of Max sitting in my mom’s lap while she was in her wheelchair riding through the park with giant smiles. The trip gave us memories that we will cherish forever.”

Make-A-Wish provides something that medicine cannot and Kari knows this. “At the hospital, Max is focused on getting through the next doctor’s appointment, the next procedure,” adds Kari. “During his wish he was carefree and joyful. And the whole process leading up to the trip was amazing for my other children. Max’s sisters see their brother going through a hard time and they can’t help him. Make-A-Wish focused on the whole family and made Max’s sisters feel special. It was a lot of healing for the whole family.”

Max visited the Florida theme parks.

Max continues to consult with doctors in Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle for his treatment. Kari and her husband Josh made the decision to give back by including Make-A-Wish in their living trust. “We got a priceless gift from Make-A-Wish. The whole process, the trip, the volunteers who worked on our wish—it was all amazing. Why wouldn’t we give back?” says Kari. “It was easy to do. Pick up the phone and get in touch with an attorney. It’s important to give now and to give when you no longer need your assets.”

Kari and Josh’s children have followed their example. Max kicked off our local Make-A-Wish chapter’s Believe letter-writing campaign in which Macy’s donates a $1 for every letter written to Santa and deposited in Believe mailboxes. He was first in line to drop his letter in and make sure other children have their wishes come true. And, he didn’t stop there. Max and sisters got their school to write letters to raise even more money for wishes.  

Right now, one in four seriously-ill children in our community does not receive a wish because of a lack of funding. Your gift will help our local Make-A-Wish chapter get closer to reaching those children and achieving our vision to grant a wish to every eligible child.

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