Austin is a spunky 12 year old boy who has been battling brain cancer for the last 5 years. Early in his diagnosis, he had success in treatment and was cancer free for a couple years. Unfortunately, the cancer has returned and has spread to his spinal cord. Currently, Austin is on a maintenance treatment in hopes of prohibiting tumor growth while he awaits the possibility of being accepted into a Medulloblastoma treatment trial at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Meanwhile, Austin was referred to CKMC through their partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital to receive a Kiss of Hope!
Austin mentioned that he “wanted to ride a horse on a beach.” So that is what we planned! On June 23 at 5:30 am, despite the loss of power in their home from the previous night’s storms, Austin and his family left for O’Hare Airport to catch their departure to Galveston, TX where they would stay for 4 days & 3 nights! He travelled with his mom, dad, and special friend Chris. We were able to get his sister Nikki there from Washington DC to meet them in Texas at the airport. Once everyone arrived, they had a 45 minute drive to their hotel in Galveston – The Tremont House, where they were booked as VIP Guests and stayed in a 2 room suite during their visit.
During their vacation, the family was able to go on a Dolphin watching cruise, visit the Moody Gardens, play on the beach, shop, dine at wonderful restaurants, and the highlight… ride horses on the beach! On Friday, June 24 in the evening, Austin’s dream to ride a horse on a beach came true!
On Sunday, their last day, it was Austin’s 12th Birthday! The Hotel staff threw a little surprise “BMX Bike” theme party for him in his room – complete with balloons, cake, ice cream and presents! Austin’s mom Dena said the trip was “Amazing! Austin got to do things that he would never have been able to do.” Her favorite moment was to see Austin at the beach, sitting in the shallow end of the ocean. When the waves would come up on him, he was so relaxed and smiled”.
The family was so grateful to be able to spend this time together, watching Austin’s dream become a reality on his birthday weekend. While on the trip, they encountered many caring & giving people along the way. Complete strangers who reached out, such as a retired marine who stopped at their dinner table and asked to say a prayer together for Austin. On another occasion, a restaurant patron left a note for mom and some cash, stating that she has been in her shoes. The weekend came to a perfect end when mom & dad tucked Austin in bed after arriving home Sunday night when he fell asleep with his favorite souvenir – a jellyfish that glows in the dark.
Just another dream made reality for a boy who has experienced more than his fair share of time as a hospital patient. CKMC Kiss of Hope Coordinator Eileen Gertz felt truly blessed to have been able to coordinate a dream come true for Austin and said, “None of this would be possible without the giving hearts of Leslie Barlowe of Beach Bum Horses, Steve Cunningham of The Tremont House and members of his staff. Everyone involved played a part in celebrating Austin’s birthday weekend!”