Making a Wish–Kyan Style

In May 2016, our young next-door neighbor was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which attacks immature blood cells. I’ll never forget that day or those following as we watched his parents drive by our house either coming or going to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, where he underwent two rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

We felt at a loss–what could we do for them while they underwent this life-wrenching ordeal.

Our steps were tiny. First, we tied orange ribbons around the big old sugar maple tree in our front yard and then snuck into their yard and did the same around all the trees that lined their driveway. It was the beginning of saying, “We’re thinking of you.”

We offered to cook a meal and mow the lawn, and even started to head over and do the latter but as it turned out, those were common, every day acts that Bill and Binaca, Ky’s parents, cherished because in that moment life was almost normal again. Sort of.

My next step, since orange is the color that represents leukemia, was to post a photo of something orange found in the natural world on my Facebook page each day. It was a small token, but a way to let Ky, his sister Quinn, and his parents know that they were in our thoughts and prayers. I did notice that though his mother “liked” most, the yuckiest ones were the ones that evoked a comment from Kyan. Typical tween–in a way.

After a spring and summer of ups and downs, the decision was made for a bone marrow transplant. And a donor was located–in the Netherlands. A year ago yesterday, Binaca and Kyan headed to Boston Children’s Hospital to begin the process. That journey was long, for Ky had to be quarantined, and even after they came home, life was different.

I do remember Halloween of last year–I don’t recall how long Ky had been home, but he was given the OK from his doctor to go trick-or-treating, as long as he stayed well covered. It was the first time he’d been with friends since May. When he, his sister and their friends came to the door, the sweetest voice to my ears said from within a Scream costume, “Hi Mrs. Hayes.” I’m not terribly fond of Halloween and costumes–it’s always creeped me out a bit. But for once, I wanted to rejoice and hug that Scream. I didn’t. First, it was a germ thing on his end and he had to be super careful. And second, I would have embarrassed him to pieces.

After that, occasionally I’d see Ky and his family as they rode through the woods on their quad, but he was always covered by a helmet. Still I was happy to see him out. And then this spring, my heart melted when I looked out one day and saw him passing by on his scooter. At first he didn’t go far, but soon he and his sister were off on adventures.

And then last night I received a message from his mom telling me that today he’d be granted a wish from Make-a-Wish Maine and asking if I’d be available to take some photographs. Um, yes!
k-make a wish in progress

When I arrived this afternoon, I was surprised to see so many cars lining their driveway as it was my understanding that this would be a quiet affair at his request when they were in the talking stages of this project. But, the Make-a-Wish people had collaborated with folks from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to fulfill Kyan’s dream. And all hands were on deck to pull it off.

k-ky's sign

He wanted a cabin of sorts. It began as a treehouse in his mind, but morphed into something a bit larger after he’d watched HGTV’s Tiny Houses. Only, as he said today, he thought it would be much smaller that what the collaborators created. Of course, his mother was hoping for a trip to Hawaii or, being a huge Tom Brady fan, maybe a Patriots game. But this was Kyan’s wish.

k-Bill and Quinn waiting

While his dad and sis waited for Kyan, his mom and his dear friend to return from a birthday adventure to Vermont . . .

k-setting up camp

as quickly as they could, the Make-a-Wish team put everything in order.

k-sweeping house

The floor was swept . . .

k-setting the sign

door locked, banner posted . . .

k-finishing touches

and final sweep made.

k-make a wish and camera crew

And then the waiting . . . his arrival imminent.

k-partnerships

In the meantime, collaborators posed–Kate Vickery, Senior Program Director of Make-a-Wish Maine and Pat Sirois, state coordinator of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee in Maine.

k-roberta scrugg

For me, it was a fun time to catch up with Roberta Scruggs on the left, Communications Director for the Maine Forest Products Council, who used to work for Lakes Environmental Association.

k-packed driveway

Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Word came that Binaca was in the neighborhood and Bill and Quinn went off to meet her. The rest of us kept our eyes on the driveway as we waited for them to pull up.

k-blindfolded

Bill had blindfolded Kyan (and we later learned that Ky was sure his father had used old underwear to do such), and guided him forward where two Make-a-Wish folks quietly took Kyan’s hands.

k-removing the blindfold

A minute later they told him he could remove the blindfold. And his awe began.

k-kyan reacting

Kyan’s not the kind of kid who’s going to jump up and down. But to say he was thrilled and overwhelmed would be an understatement. And by his father’s T-shirt, can you tell who the superhero is?

k-ky entering

At last Ky entered his new digs.

k-ky from new bed

And peeked out from the loft.

k-ky interview prep

After he’d walked in and out and in again and up and down the two sets of stairs a few times, and around the back, the news teams stepped up–eager for an interview.

k-ky interview 1a

With a smile that never left his face, he answered a myriad of questions.

k-camera crew

For a kid who doesn’t like to be the center of attention, all eyes were focused . . . on him.

k-ky interview 2

All the while, he kept looking back at his “kabin.”

k-ky interview 1

He never once wavered in a response and the smile never left his face.

k-kyan interview 3

But his eyes–oh were they focused.

k-binaca interview 5

His mom was also interviewed and in her usual and beautifully reflective manner recalled the past year and a half.

k-Binaca's look

Sometimes the emotion of the day shown through.

k-binaca interview 1

But the strength of her character and thankfulness for all blessings flowed through her being.

k-binaca interview 4

As her interview continued, Kyan chatted briefly with his dad and then I noticed that he and his sister and his friend and her friend bee-lined into their home. I suspect they were on a mission to find stuff to make the kabin their own.

k-the house awaits

Kyan’s Kabin.

k-wish team 2

The Make-a-Wish Maine crew with Kyan and family.

k-ssf 2

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative crew, Kyan, family and friends.

k-bill showing his thanks

Hugs . . .

k-bill thanking everyone

and handshakes.

k8-couch and bunk above (1)

And a quick peek inside, where a sitting area awaits,

k6-stairway (1)

two sets of stairs lead to two lofts,

k3-Quinn's bed? (1)

and I suspect his sister has claimed one,

k4-Ky's bed and doggy bed (1)

while the other is for him and his dog. (Actually, I’m thinking that when he’s in school, maybe I can meet his mom there–don’t tell. We can start our own klub.)

k-make a wish sign 1

As of August 17, Kyan will be one year into remission.

k-balloons

Certainly a reason to celebrate. And I think I know where Ky’s sleeping tonight.