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Charly Haley, Published April 12 2013

Boy battling cancer has blast as ‘pilot for a day’

FARGO – For 15 months, 7-year-old Samuel Green has been told what to do.

He’s been taken to and from hospitals, and he’s patiently waited through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

But Samuel got to call the shots Friday, when the North Dakota Air National Guard Happy Hooligans in Fargo made him “pilot for a day.” As part of Samuel’s special day, the Hooligans gave him the rank of general.

“You’re in charge now,” Col. Kent Olson said after placing the silver stars on Samuel’s collar, signifying his rank.

Samuel was at the Guard base with his parents, Nathan and Melissa Green and two younger brothers, Jack, 3, and Benjamin, 1. The family traveled from Glasston, which is about 65 miles north of Grand Forks.

Samuel was nominated for the Air Guard’s Pilot for a Day program by Lorri Ferguson, a child life specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo.

“Sam is a very creative boy,” Ferguson said. He likes to be a part of things, so she knew he’d enjoy the program, she said.

In the past 15 months, Samuel has waged a battle against desmoplastic small round cell tumor, an aggressive and rare cancer of the abdomen.

Melissa Green said he’s been treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and at Sanford Health in East Grand Forks, Minn. The treatments included surgically removing the tumor, chemotherapy and radiation.

“Cancer in children is pretty devastating,” said Samuel’s father, Nathan.

“Nobody expects that their child will have a tumor,” Melissa added.

They said their son’s cancer is in remission, and he’s doing better.

The Greens were grateful for Samuel’s special day with the Happy Hooligans.

“He’s having a blast,” Melissa said. “It’s truly a blessing.”

Samuel was shy while interacting with many of the Air Guard personnel, but he did smile a lot and said he and his brothers had a lot of fun.

When the Greens arrived at the base, they were escorted in and treated to a breakfast. Samuel was then given a flight uniform to wear and received an official welcome.

Throughout the day, he and his brothers had a chance to use a predator drone simulator, learn about life support equipment, sit in the cockpit of a

C-21 aircraft and watch a firefighting demonstration.

During the life support demonstration, Samuel’s brother, Jack, tried on an inflatable life-jacket. Their dad tried on heavier survival equipment.

“He has a lot of stuff on. Too much stuff. Daddy, can you hold that?” Samuel said when he saw his dad in the survival equipment.

“I hope so,” Nathan joked.

Air Guard personnel were all smiles as they watched Samuel and his brothers playing with survival equipment and running around the aircraft hangar.

“It’s a great day today,” said Lt. Ryan Hehr, one of the coordinators of Pilot for a Day, which started in 2005.

“Everyone looks forward to this day,” he said. “It recognizes someone in the community who’s had some struggles, and brightens their day.”


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311