After leukemia battle, teen wishes to visit historic WWII sites

(BPT) - Being 17 years old and battling leukemia was not easy for Johnny. He was forced to miss out on many opportunities with friends and family as his illness took a toll.

During this lonely time in his life, Johnny, the son of a military veteran, kept busy by learning about World War II. He enjoyed watching movies about the experiences of soldiers on both sides, what tactics they used and the impact the war had on them. When volunteers from Make-A-Wish asked what his one true wish would be, he knew he wanted to go to Normandy, France, to see the World War II memorial sites during the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“Having just gone through a year of constantly being sick, and having life-threatening reactions, it was amazing to get away and have an actual vacation with my family,” Johnny said. “I needed it and my family needed it just as much, if not more.”

Getting ready for the trip was a much-needed escape for Johnny and his family. It allowed them to put the constant thought of his leukemia behind them while they focused on their upcoming adventure.

“Johnny was still recovering from treatment until about a month before the actual trip,” said Johnny’s mom, Shannon. “The process of planning and preparing for the trip helped to keep his mind off the physical effects of treatment and helped to maintain a positive attitude.”

While on his wish, Johnny and his family were able to experience a trip that allowed them to forget about the hard times they faced at home. They saw beautiful beaches and countryside. They visited Belleau Wood to learn more about war history, which reinforced Johnny’s plans to join the United States Marine Corps in the future.

Johnny’s wish was made possible through a donation from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company’s charitable funding, totaling more than $3 million since 2017, has helped Make­-A-­Wish provide transformational wishes for children with cancer, the most common illness of eligible wish kids, across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. A wish granted helps kids like Johnny experience life beyond illness, and can also help build the physical and emotional strength a child needs to fight a critical illness.

“I feel that the biggest benefit from this wish, or any wish, is getting the child (and family) out of the treatment mindset,” Johnny’s mom said. “This trip enabled us to reset and find a place of normality again.”

“Thank you so much for doing what you do,” Johnny said. “I appreciate it greatly, my family appreciates it and I’m sure anyone else who has cancer, has been affected by cancer, or anyone who knows friends or family that have been affected by cancer really appreciate it.”

To help grant life-changing wishes for kids like Johnny, visit site.wish.org/johnny.

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