When a child is facing a life-threatening or critical condition, every break from the reality of the situation can make a world of difference and give the child something to look forward to beyond their illness. For 4-year-old Conner Alberts, these small moments can change his entire life, and that’s where Make-A-Wish Utah steps in, often with the help of community support.
Every year, before the holiday season begins, the employees of St. George-based RAM Company find new ways to give back to the community. In past years they’ve held various fundraisers and helped gather thousands of pounds of food, but this year, after hearing about Conner, RAM owner Kevin Ganowsky told St. George News everyone agreed they wanted to donate to Make-A-Wish.
“They really were touched at this,” he said. “The employees really came through.”
Whether it was online donations, payroll deductions or even throwing a few quarters in the lunchroom bucket, Ganowsky said RAM’s employees were able to raise thousands for the charity, with every dollar contributed by employees matched by the company. By the end of 30 days, they had raised $7,554 that would benefit Conner and seven other Southern Utah kids.
“We were glad to be able to contribute to this cause for him,” Ganowsky said. “We donated to him and his family so that they could have a nice Christmas.”
Two years ago, Conner was diagnosed with leukemia, a life-threatening form of blood cancer. In the months since, he has faced a barrage of difficult treatments, from chemotherapy to radiation. Daniel Dudley, director of development for Make-A-Wish Utah, told St. George News Conner’s perseverance is remarkable. As of his last checkup, Conner is currently cancer-free.
They believe a granted wish can make the kids fight harder
At Make-A-Wish Utah, their whole purpose is to make wishes come true for children facing a battle for their lives — to give kids “something to think about beyond” what they are facing. They believe a granted wish can make the kids fight harder and help carry them through the difficult times ahead.
As soon as Make-A-Wish is alerted to a child’s request, they begin investigating exactly what the child hopes to experience and then do their very best to make sure it happens. Conner’s dream was to meet all the superheroes. His favorites are Spider-Man, Disney-Pixar’s Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and of course, baby Jack-Jack, the Incredibles’ youngest child.
“We’ve been able to get to know the family,” Dudley said of the Alberts, “and it’s been a long road. He’s doing much better. … And with the help of RAM and their generous employees and ownership here, he and other kids are going to receive their wishes. We’re really proud of RAM Company and how their employees so generously united.”
Conner’s fight was the focus of attention at RAM Company’s monthly employee meeting on Wednesday afternoon, where Ganowsky was joined by his parents, Ray and Melzie, and co-owner Brian McCann during a check presentation to Make-A-Wish.
We are so grateful for the generosity and the effort you all put in to grant wishes like Conner’s
“The reason I am here is to applaud you,” Dudley said to a cheering lunchroom crowd. “We are so grateful for the generosity and the effort you all put in to grant wishes like Conner’s, and because of you, I am here to make a very special announcement. On Dec. 23, Conner and all of his siblings and his parents are going to pack their bags, and they’re heading to Florida. They’re going to Disney World.”
Dudley added that Conner won’t be staying at just any old hotel; he will be staying at a resort that Dudley said is “basically a kid’s fantasy land come to life.” It’s a place where families can stay only through Make-A-Wish.
“Every Wish family has their own villa, and the master bedroom is reserved for Conner,” Dudley said. “He gets to sleep on a king-size bed. His parents are not allowed to go in the master bedroom. Every day he’s going to leave to go to a different theme park, and people are going to go into his bedroom and leave him and his siblings gifts. At night, Disney characters will come knock on his door, and they’ll come into the villa and they’ll tuck Conner into bed.”
Dudley has worked for the charity for over seven years and said he knows how much these donations make a difference in kids’ lives. He said the RAM donation will not only help Conner but also seven other kids in the area for whom the organization is working to make their wishes happen.
While Conner’s parents couldn’t attend the event on Wednesday, they asked Dudley to tell everyone that looking forward to the Disney trip has truly changed their life. Moving to St. George to see so many strangers become friends has really provided an emotional support that has impacted their family more than they thought was ever possible.
“Thank you so much on behalf of all the kids you’re supporting,” Dudley said. “That’s amazing.”
Ganowsky also personally thanked the employees.
“It’s incredible how much you guys supported this,” he said. “It’s just incredible that you guys could give back to the community like that. We really appreciate that.”
For every child that makes a wish, the foundation holds a “Wish Proclamation” where they surprise the child and let them know their wish is actually going to come true. When the ceremony was held for Conner at Fiesta Fun Center, he was joined by several RAM employees, family and friends. His dad described the moment as the best night of Conner’s life.
Employees seemed touched Wednesday as they watched a video of the event showing St. George Mayor Jon Pike presenting him with a key to the city for his braveness. The full video can be seen on the Make-A-Wish Utah Facebook page here.
“If you think that smile is big, just wait until the photos you see of him in Disney World,” Dudley said. “Thanks for helping grant wishes like Conner’s and other kids right here in St. George.”
Written by ANDREW PINCKNEY, St. George News.