Helicopter blades whirred as 16-year-old Forrest Wagner lifted off the ground in one of many helicopter flights to come for the aspiring pilot.
“We thought this would be a unique wish to grant for World Wish Day,” Sherry Johnson, director of program services, said.
At a celebration at East Texas Medical Center, Forrest, of Winnsboro, was treated with a helicopter ride and presented with everything he will need to be a pilot: flying lessons, books, certificates, and his own personal flight suit. East Texas Medical Center, SKY Helicopters, FlightSafety International Incorporated and ETMC Air 1 teamed up to make Forrest’s wish a reality.
Forrest has been diagnosed with a rare cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. He’s been in and out of ETMC and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and just finished his latest round of chemo last week. A CT scan in two weeks will determine if he’s in remission or not.
Larry and Dawn Southard have helped finance more than 10 wishes for kids in East Texas and helped provide for Forrest’s wish as well.
The children who are part of the Make-A-Wish program draw their wish, said Ms. Johnson as she held up Forrest’s drawing of a helicopter. Forrest never had a doubt about what he was going to draw, he said.
“It’s almost overwhelming,” Forrest said. “I was surprised. People don’t just get helicopter lessons out of the blue.”
Make-A-Wish North Texas grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to “enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy,” according to a release from the organization. It has granted more than 6,900 wishes since its inception in 1982.
“Our goal is to be a unique part of the treatment process,” reads the release. “With doctors providing the medicine, and Make-A-Wish supplying the magic, we strive to create miracles in the lives of some very extraordinary children.”
Sam Wagner, Forrest’s father, looked on with a smile as Forrest sat in the front seat of the helicopter, posing for pictures.
“He’s as over the moon as you can be,” he said. “He’s always had dreams of being in the Air Force Academy. When he was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, that undid some of those dreams, but maybe he’s getting some of them back today. … I’m immensely proud.”