“You were on the train? With the kids?” A Lake Louise store clerk in an art and sculpture store said with astonishment.
I replied that we had just got in from our journey that began in Vancouver. He stood up a little straighter and said with even more emphasis “You took your whole family on the Rocky Mountaineer? You never hear of children riding the Rocky Mountaineer! That’s a dream trip!”
I glanced around the shop at the gorgeous sculptures that were priced in the thousands and felt I should explain a little more, before he thought he had some potential customers.
Every year the Rocky Mountaineer selects a charity to sponsor on their Train for Heroes. This year the Starlight Children’s Foundation was chosen, and ten families of children living with illnesses were blessed with a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Lake Louise. We were one of those families.
You could see the excitement and perhaps a little envy in his eyes. “That is incredible! You will remember that for the rest of your lives. I haven’t done it myself but it’s rated the top train ride in the world, even before the Oriental Express. That is truly an amazing opportunity.”
He was right, and he didn’t even know the whole story.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation provides activities and camaraderie for children who are living with health issues. My son Kellen has been a Starlight child for nearly two years since his diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis, and in that time he has attended several events with other Starlight families.
I was aware that Starlight also grants wishes to children, but I had never pursued this for my son because he does not have a terminal diagnosis, and I assumed that was required. I wanted him to be a part of Starlight so that he could meet other kids who are facing obstacles and get the chance to feel special by the invitations. I never dreamed that he would be offered such an amazing trip, or a wish of his own, but that is exactly what happened.
A couple of weeks prior to the trip, I received a call from Debbie at the BC Starlight Foundation. She told me that the Rocky Mountaineer and Starlight wanted to grant wishes to the four children on the trip who had never received a wish, my son being one of them. Not wanting to discourage this, but also afraid of a misunderstanding, I said that I didn’t think Kellen qualified for a wish. Debbie explained to me that Starlight grants wishes to children who are living with illnesses that impact their daily lives. That is certainly true for Kellen, who lives with pain, chronic fatigue and monthly IV infusions, so we could move forward. Debbie asked me to find out what Kellen would wish for, without actually telling him about the wish. That surprise would be announced during the train trip. She was hoping for three wish ideas, and she sent me a stack of paperwork to work through in the meantime.
Discovering your male preteen’s deepest wishes is no easy task. I think he mainly wished I would stop bothering him with my pointless questions. In the end, I told him we needed to fill out his original Starlight application with a little more realism. Two years ago he stated that he wished he could go to the moon, have a Lamborghini and meet Wayne Gretzky. While Wayne Gretzky seems like a possibility, the other two wishes were pretty far-fetched. I didn’t mind, since I didn’t think a wish was in his future, but now it seemed we needed more solid wish ideas.
With a great deal of persistence from me, he finally said that he would wish for a trip to Hawaii to see a real volcano, visit the sets of Lost and see the Pearl Harbour Memorial. Perfect. I wrote that down even though I was pretty sure someone would have an issue with his age and the fact that he’s watched Lost, but it’s what he wanted. He then wished for a trip to Florida to go to Disney World and Universal Studios. Super! Then he wished for a Playstation 4. I sighed and wrote that down too. I completed all of the paperwork, sent it off and tried to contain my excitement while we waited.
Come back tomorrow to read part two of our story!