For Von, an eight-year-old Dover, DE resident, one special volcano in Hawaii is more than just an awesome geological marvel—it’s a beacon of hope and strength.
Critically ill children and their families know too well the all-consuming anxiety of a cancer diagnosis. For families like Von’s, a wish journey is more than a gift, a trip, or a party. It is an anchor. “We were benefitting from his wish before we even left,” Von’s mom, Gina, says. “It became the focus for so many months.” After years of treatment and attention on Von’s illness, the hot topic around the dinner table became something fun—Von’s upcoming wish.
Von is the youngest of five kids and he’s a huge personality jammed in a little body. “He may be the fifth kid,” says Gina, “but his opinion is always first!” Funny, outgoing, and without a shy bone in his body, Von is a firecracker. Perhaps it’s fitting that, when asked his one true wish, Von drew a picture of an erupting volcano.
While Make-A-Wish went to work bringing that crayon-drawn dream to life, Von became the envy of all his friends. He was no longer the “cancer kid”; now he was the kid going to Hawaii to see a volcano! Everybody knew. Kids from school wanted to hide in his suitcase and begged to tag along on his vacation. Von, eagerly anticipating his trip, looked forward to every gift package from wish volunteers. The anticipation was a great distraction for not only Von, but the whole family.
Von’s wish took place in early 2018. Visiting that volcano, taking a submarine ride, snorkeling—no corner of the Big Island was left unexplored. “It gets me so choked up,” Gina says.
“They made that whole picture come true.” As a young boy with an illness, Von is either going one hundred miles per hour or not feeling well. But in Hawaii, Gina says, “We would catch him just relaxing and smiling… It was a total recharge for our entire family. You don’t think about ‘when’s the next lab draw.’”
But Von’s wish offered him even more than a recharge. When kids undergo cancer treatment, it is common, Gina says, to hear “they’re a warrior.” Though Von’s parents always knew he was brave, it wasn’t until Hawaii that they got to see just how brave he really was—and in a way that had nothing to do with his battle with cancer. Ditching his comfort zone, little Von jumped off sharp lava rock to go snorkeling in 20-foot deep waters, impressing his family and everyone around. Hawaii showed him and his family that he’s not just brave for fighting cancer, but brave because he’s Von.
Gina says that since the family has come back from Hawaii, things don’t seem as hard or dramatic for her son—after all, he’s jumped from lava rocks! She is so thankful to everyone, and especially the donors, for making the trip happen. “How do you put a price on escaping the cancer world?” she asks. “It’s priceless.”