"One in a billion... These are the words you want to hear if you have the winning lottery ticket in your hand… not the words you want to hear from your child’s doctor when they are attempting to diagnose his medical condition," said wish mom, Shelley.
At 12 years old, Cullen was a medical anomaly living with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis and Severe Obstructive Lung Disease. "The doctors were stumped," said Shelley. "They had never seen anything like this before."
When life seemed to spiral out of control, Cullen did have control of one thing: the opportunity to choose a wish from Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. Cullen chose to meet Mariners' All-Star pitcher, Felix Hernandez. The morning of his wish, he was picked up in a Hummer limo and dropped off at Safeco Field where he was outfitted with his very own custom Mariners' jersey. Once properly dressed, he spent the rest of the afternoon receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of the press room, dugout and Clubhouse. Finally, the big moment arrived, and Cullen met Felix. The two hit it off like they had been friends for years. Felix gave Cullen an autographed baseball glove to commemorate the experience. Later, Cullen and his family watched the Mariners' game from a private suite.
"The experience is so much bigger than the wish itself. It is the excitement and anticipation of the wish day, and the happiness it continues to generate as we reflect upon the memories of that special day," shared Shelley. For their entire family, it was a great reminder of the support of their community through a difficult time. "A wish teaches kids that they are not only cherished by their families, but by those in their community. It shows all of us that we need one another and we are not alone. Even in the worst of times, there is a silver lining."
A wish never fades:
We are sad to report that Cullen has passed. Cullen was so impacted by his wish, he worked to raise more than $12,000 for Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington so that other wish kids could experience the same joy his wish brought him. His wish continues to inspire those in the community and we are so grateful to have brought Cullen and his family hope, strength and joy.
Special thanks: Wish granting volunteers Tom and Jen Faley, the Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez, Jack Zdureincik, and Ben Van Houten Photography