« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Mila Koumpilova, Published December 26 2008

Make-a-Wish fulfills hopes of 2 brothers

Sherry Schiltz had long vowed she would never set foot on a plane.

But this Christmas Day, she had a compelling reason to break that promise. In fact, she had two reasons.

The Hankinson, N.D., mom of four joined two of her sons – 12-year-old Joshua and 16-year-old Matthew – on back-to-back dream trips courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Matthew would hang out with his beloved Green Bay Packers, and another flight later, his brother would check out the rides at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.

Both boys have a form of muscular dystrophy that might have weakened their bodies but not their zest for adventure.

The family’s MeritCare nurse told them this summer the boys are eligible for Make-a-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening conditions.

“Matt said, ‘You know what, Mom? We’re really not that sick,’ ” Sherry recalled as the family awaited its flight at Hector International Airport. “We thought there are kids who need this a lot more than we do.”

Once they were reassured, the boys promptly picked out their wishes. Matthew’s hardly came as a surprise.

“Matthew is a huge Packers fan in a household of Vikings fans,” his mom said.

Matt will get a tour of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and attend a Packers practice. He hopes to get the autographs of favorites Al Harris and Donald Driver and – on the heels of a losing streak this year –tell them, “Try to do better next year.” Matt and his family will also catch a game against the Detroit Lions.

Joshua had a bit harder time deciding, so his 8-year-old sister, Megan, pitched the Disney World idea. Megan and brother Jonathan, 14, will tag along on the trip, along with dad Jeff, who also has muscular dystrophy.

“The boys were very excited,” says their Make-a-Wish volunteer Julie Marxen, who was impressed by the family’s matter-of-fact take on their triple battle with the genetic disease. “It’s nice to get away from doctors and needles, to build memories and just be a family.”

Sharon Mazaheri of the Make-a-Wish Foundation says granting wishes to siblings is rather uncommon: The North Dakota chapter has worked with only six pairs of siblings since its inception in 1985. It has granted some 500 wishes.

At Disney World, the Schiltzes will run into another North Dakota pair of siblings enjoying a double Make-a-Wish treat: 10-year-old Ellyse Steckler and her 7-year-old brother, Joshua. The Bismarck children both have hereditary pancreatitis. Also in Orlando will be 3-year-old Anna Kreidt of Dickinson, who has a kidney tumor.

This is a busy time of year for the Make-a-Wish North Dakota team. They’re working on granting more than 30 wishes across the state.

“The best part – and this is what I hear from parents – is knowing their child has been given the hope and strength and power behind a wish,” Mazaheri said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529