A popular Facebook status update that has gone viral reads, “All of us have a thousand wishes. To be thinner, to be bigger, have more money, have a cool car, a day off, a new phone, to date the person of your dreams. A cancer patient only has one wish, to kick cancer's butt.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, while it can’t cure cancer, can grant wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. Popular wishes range from Justin Bieber tickets to a trip to Disney World. One special five-year old battling leukemia, however, had something a little different in mind.
According to a report by KSDK News, “Plenty of people flee cities and suburbia for a whiff of fresh country air, but the people who tend to crave it aren't typically five-years old.Then again, most five-year olds haven't spent more than 120 days of their little life locked away from it in a hospital.”
Diagnosed with leukemia at two-years old, Joe Joe Charles has gone through more in a few years than many will face in their entire lifetimes -- chemo, surgeries, radiation.
“So when Make-A-Wish came calling, it was a silver lining that Joe Joe's parents knew would include shades of green because he's always had a tender spot for tractors.”
Joe Joe dreams of becoming a farmer, so the town of Waterloo, IL, granted in him that wish. He spent a day planting and fertilizing fields, picking up chicken eggs, holding baby pigs and fishing. He was given a complete cowboy makeover, along with his twin brother. The boys got to ride in a stage coach in a parade, with students lining the streets and signs hanging on every corner and business sign. The magical part of this warm reception was the fact that the Charles family is from Kansas City, but the Waterloo community adopted Joe Joe and his family to make one special little boy’s dreams come true.
"When cancer enters your life the way it has for our family, you see your community, your churches rally around you because they know you, they love you," says Thomas Charles, Joe Joe's dad. "But when a community who has no idea who you are because they fell in love with a little child's dream rolls out the red carpet and welcomes us in like they've known us all our lives, I truly mean this Waterloo, Illinois is becoming our new home. It's just remarkable what these people have done."
I couldn't help but smile when I saw this news report. I hope and pray that Joe Joe is able to beat the odds and kick cancer’s butt and grow up to be a big and strong farmer.
Many farm and ranch families have been impacted by cancer, and mine is no exception. When my cousin Ty Eschenbaum was diagnosed with leukemia as a freshman in high school, it was a stark reminder that family is very important and that we need to live life to the fullest. Eschenbaum had a long road with chemo treatments, radiation, surgeries, staph infections, and degenerative joint issues, but he perservered, graduated as valedictorian in his high school class, finished college at South Dakota State University, and now works to help others who are fighting the same battle he once faced. He is a motivational speaker on this topic and has established the Ty Eschenbaum Foundation to support and enhance the lives of youth and their families affected by cancer.
Last fall, he teamed up with local grain elevators, where farmers could donate bushels of corn to support the non-profit organization. The money is used to provide college scholarships to kids battling cancer. You can learn more about it here. I’m very proud and inspired by Ty’s strength and work in this arena, and I thought it was something worth sharing today.
Without question, cancer is a horrible thing to happen to a family, and my heart is with those who dealing with such challenges. I hope Joe Joe enjoyed his day as a farmer in Waterloo, and I pray other communities are inspired by this story and pass it on. A small gesture can create a ripple effect, and I think this is one worth growing.
What do you think about today’s feel-good story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.