"Every time my husband Neil and I see a train, we immediately think of Will," wish mom Ginny said.
"Will just absolutely loved trains. I remember him saying once that he wanted to drive a train even before he was born." Life for the family changed when their vibrant seven-year-old train aficionado had to quit school and all the fun of playing with the animals on the family's farm, to focus on fighting an extremely rare form of leukemia. "Doctors said Will's situation is seen only in 1% of the cases," Ginny added. According to Will's parents, after learning the diagnosis, their son armed himself for the battle with his signature strong will and a train set.
Trains kept the boy entertained during hospital stays that would last for more than 100 days. “Will never thought about what was wrong with him, he always thought about the fun he was having,” remembers Ginny. “I think his personality helped him cope with the treatment… his stubbornness. If you wanted to go somewhere, Will would want you to go in the opposite direction.”
But everyone agreed with going Will’s way when he announced that as his wish, he wanted to drive steam trains. Thanks to your help, we were able to touch Will’s life and fulfill his very unique request. Bitter Creek Railroad volunteered to host Will as a VIP for an entire day of steam train driving. The facility, along with the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, named the aspiring driver their honorary member and junior engineer.
To play the part accordingly, Will received an engineer uniform and a wooden whistle among several other train related gifts. Will’s friends and relatives joined the boy for his magical day.
San Luis Obispo County Cruise for Kids adopted Will’s wish through our chapter’s Adopt-a-Wish® program. The group kicked-off Will’s day with a roar, and surprised the boy with a motorcycle procession. Neil said, “Make-A-Wish® allows these children to remember how to dream.” Unfortunately, life for the family changed again when Will relapsed for a last time shortly after his wish was granted.
“Will talked about his wish all the time, he drew pictures of trains and even made a movie about trains after his wish. What you guys did was amazing and that it is how everybody remembers him,” Ginny said. “He was one in a million.”
News of the outcome of Will’s fight hit all of those who knew him. At the Foundation, we find comfort in knowing that the kids we serve are able to see their life’s wish unfold in front of their eyes. The impact of each wish we grant continues through the memories of the wish child’s friends and family.
This is a clear reminder of the importance of our work. Neil and Ginny think Will’s passion for trains, his vibrant personality and indomitable spirit sketched a clear picture of him. The couple sees a little glimpse of Will whenever a train goes by. Ginny shared, “Neil and I were driving north one night and we saw a train where we had never seen one before. We both started to cry when the trained whistled. I told my husband, ‘Look Neil! It’s Will! And of course, he is going in the opposite direction!” Ginny hopes that Will’s story will be a catalyst for more wishes to be granted. She said, “We want to think that Will’s journey had a purpose. Perhaps the story of his wish will inspire somebody to help another kid.”
Photos courtesy of Jeff Shewmon.