Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
By Bethany Bashioum
Connor Ohlson is not only looking to see his own wish to come true, he’s also looking to help other cancer patients like himself receive theirs as well.
The Fourth Grade Ambassadors at Raymore Elementary recently teamed up the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a service learning project to support Ohlson, a fellow fourth grade classmate.
After living nearly six years with an incurable form of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, it’s the 9-year-old’s one true wish to visit Walt Disney World.
Earlier this winter, Ohlson became the face of the Foundation’s new Kids for Wish Kids program, which engages students in fundraising efforts to help children in their own communities battling with a life-threatening illness.
The ambassadors are looking to raise $5,000 to send Ohlson and his family to Florida.
“It’s not easy to go through cancer,” Ohlson said. “I had IVs and had to stay in the hospital for long periods.”
The first symptom of Ohlson’s blood marrow disease was a bad cough.
“I had to go to the ER and it was scary,” he recalls.
The cancer will never go away, but Ohlson’s blood counts are under control with oral chemotherapy he will have to take everyday for the rest of his life. He can go into remission but will still require special care including frequent check-ups, blood draws and aspirations.
Ohlson maintains a positive attitude and is excelling as a student at Raymore Elementary. His favorite school activity is recess, and also enjoys playing baseball and basketball.
In looking forward to going to Disney World, Ohlson said his favorite characters are Phineas and Ferb.
“I felt angry (in getting cancer), and this is just a reward for going through all the tough stuff,” he said. “God thought I could go through tougher stuff than other children, so He thought I could go through this and good things can come out of it.”
During a school-wide assembly in late January, Ohlson talked to students about what it’s like to live with cancer.
“It’s a blood cancer,” he explained to his classmates. “My white blood cells are abnormal.”
Blue, the mascot for Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer, who is a Make-A-Wish sponsor, also showed up for the assembly.
The school, which is looking to involve the entire district, are rallying students to fundraise throughout the remaining months of school through drawings and other games in hopes of raising the cost of Ohlson’s trip.
Even Ohlson’s former school, Kentucky Trail Elementary, in Belton, is also joining in to help raise funds.
But the fourth-grader said he hopes there’s enough money left over to help other wishes come true for children who are ill.
“It’s not normal for a kid to have to go through this stuff,” he said.
Make-A-Wish has long served kids with terminal illnesses by making their dreams come true through vacations, shopping sprees or celebrity meet-and-greets as a way to take off the stress of their medical situations
In an effort to boost the excitement, Raymore Elementary Principal Michelle Hofmann is even joining in on the fun - volunteering herself to do something her students might find humiliating - such as roller skating around school hallways wearing a ballroom gown or greeting the entire student body from the roof of the school.
“As the principal, it is truly an incredible gift to see such wonderful compassion, generosity and team spirit at work in the hearts of our young people at Raymore Elementary School and the Early Learning Department,” Hofmann said. “May we as a school community and beyond help make Connor’s wish, and perhaps as Connor hopes, the wishes of other kids, come true.”
Another fundraising effort planned for the week of March 4 during the school’s Read across America Week, is allowing students to buy their own wish-for-a-day, like wearing a hat or their pajamas to school, for a dollar.
Hoffman also said several community events are in the works to help raise money.
There will be a “Cut-a-Thon Carnival for Connor” Sunday, April 7, begininning at 1 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door.
Stylists from Vanity Salon in Blue Springs, along with other Kansas City-area stylists, will be offering hair cuts for a minimal charge, as well as color extensions representing cancer awareness colors.
For those who donate their hair to Locks of Love, hair cuts will be free.
As for the carnival, Hofmann said there will be a live auction, photo booth, bounce house, petting zoo, cake walk and more.
She is also looking for more vendors who would be willing to donate services, goods or gift certificates. For more information about the carnival, call 816-892-1925.
Other fundraising events will include a CocoKey Water Resort benefit and 3-on-3 basketball benefit later in the year.
Cash donations from individuals and businesses are accepted, and can be sent to:
Raymore Elementary School, Attention: Make A Wish Connor Ohlson, 500 S. Madison, Raymore, MO 64083.
Other schools interested in enrolling in Kids For Wish Kids should contact Program Manager Tiffani Kintchen at 913-341-9474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.