Down a dirt road in Mount Vernon, South Dakota, 3-year-old silly and well-mannered Parker lives with his mom and dad, Chelci and Josh. On May 29, 2019, when Parker was just 2 years old, Parker’s family heard the words no parent ever wants to hear: “your child has cancer.” For families with a child diagnosed with cancer, the day of the diagnosis is never forgotten and not often a day of celebration. However, for Parker’s family, the one-year anniversary of Parker’s diagnosis would come to hold a new meaning for them—one filled with hope, joy, and transformation.
May 29, 2020, held several surprises in store for Parker. Exactly one year after his cancer diagnosis, Parker’s wish was coming true. While a brand-new playset was being built in his backyard by Rainbow Midwest, Parker was spending the day with his grandparents, having no clue that his wish would be coming true later that day.
Wish granters prepared for Parker’s arrival, hiding little surprises like bubbles and superhero posters for him to discover as he roamed his new custom Rainbow playset. Friends and family gathered, excited to partake in this life-changing day for Parker. The moment everyone was waiting for had arrived— Parker and his parents walked into their backyard. As all in attendance shouted, “Happy Wish Day, Parker,” Parker didn’t quite seem to realize that the giant playset in front of him was his to keep and play on. However, all it took was one sentence from his dad for Parker to go running towards the playset with arms swinging: “Go play, Parker!”
As Parker took time to enjoy and explore his new playset, Make-A-Wish South Dakota’s Senior Director of Program Services, Joe Evenson, shared more information about Parker’s wish with attendees. Parker’s wish was the 46th wish of the chapter’s fiscal year and the 1,518th wish granted since the chapter began in 1984. Joe continued, thanking 14-year-old Ireland Hyde, the Adopt-A-Wish partner for Parker’s wish.
Ireland is part of the Kids for Wish Kids program, where kids, schools, and organizations can fundraise to help grant wishes. Ireland is a former wish kid herself and had her wish to go to Walt Disney World granted back in 2010. She was so moved and inspired by her own wish experience that she now spends her free time fundraising to help grant wishes, bringing that same joy she felt during her own wish to other kids battling critical illnesses. “It is hard to remember on bad days that happy days will come along, too… That is why I like to raise money to adopt wishes,” Ireland said.
Parker’s wish is the second wish Ireland has adopted with the money she has raised. Ireland was even able to attend Parker’s wish reveal party—a very special moment for both Ireland and Parker’s family. Just one wish can touch the lives of many. Ireland is a perfect example of that. “I have to go to Chicago for my check-up this summer, and when I am getting worried about my own doctor’s visits, I am going to think about Parker and the fun I saw him having on his wish day,” Ireland shared.
The surprises for Parker weren’t over just yet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and taking extra precautions to ensure everyone’s health and safety, Parker’s wish reveal party couldn’t have as many people in attendance as his family would have liked. A parade was the perfect way to have everyone participate in the celebration of Parker’s wish day! The party moved to the front yard as Parker was told another surprise was waiting for him. As the parade approached, Parker began looking around to see where the noise was coming from. Sirens sounded and lights flashed as fire trucks and police cars led the parade, followed by many cars full of friends, family, and community members. Parker, wearing a Make-A-Wish shirt and superhero cape, waved to each vehicle and smiled as they drove by.
Just when everyone thought the parade was over, the familiar song of an ice cream truck became louder and louder. Sure enough, an ice cream truck filled with delicious, cold treats pulled up. Parker walked up and picked out something for himself, turning around with a treat in each hand. His choices? A red and green popsicle AND a Batman ice cream treat. Just before returning to his playset for more adventure, Parker exclaims, “Thanks, guys, for coming. Guys, this is a BIG party!”
As the party started to wind down, Parker asked, “Another surprise?” His wish granters carried over the last surprise of the evening—a giant cookie cake from Eileen’s Colossal Cookies in Sioux Falls. Parker looked at it in amazement when he was told it was all for him. After pausing to take a picture with the cookie cake, Parker bent over and licked the cookie cake, ensuring that it was, in fact, all for him. This was his wish day.
Parker’s medical journey has been tough and is far from over. Parker’s mom, Chelci, shared just what this wish means for their family: “Josh and I both had an overwhelming feeling of love, joy, gratefulness, and just pure happiness. [Parker] still will tell us every day, “I always wanted this park!”” Wishes are meant to be life-changing, and this couldn’t be truer for Parker’s family. “This wish means that we are finally able to let Parker play at the park. It’s always been one of his favorite things to do. When he got diagnosed with leukemia, we couldn’t let him play at the public parks with all the germs. Now, any time Parker wants to play at the park, we can just take him outside to the backyard,” Chelci said.
Being so young, Parker may not always remember everything that happened on this special day, but it’s a day his family will forever remember. It’s the day Parker shouted, “This is the best day ever!” It’s the day Parker kept telling everyone, “I always wanted this park, guys!” It’s the day that could have been understandably difficult for Parker’s family, but instead was a day of celebration and making new, happy memories. This playset will provide an escape for Parker whenever he needs one, and this wish will give him the added boost of hope he needs to continue pushing through his battle with cancer.