Tommy’s wish has been granted.
That’s what the letter in the mail addressed to Tommy Harris said more than three years ago. The granting of his wish, to visit Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, came as a surprise after his favorite oncology nurse secretly nominated him to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Tommy, now 7, was just 18 months old when his first symptom emerged. It was a bloody nose.
It would take years for a diagnosis to come: Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer that can damage tissue or cause lesions to form in one or more places in the body, according to the Histiocytosis Association.
“His tumor was inoperable because of where it was located, so he went through a year of chemotherapy and other horrible medications,” Heather Harris said as she recalled her son’s treatment. “During that process, we got the letter in the mail.”
But Harris said she and her husband felt hesitant — guilty almost — to accept the wish.
“We were thinking we shouldn’t take this wish from somebody else, because we could afford to take him to Disney World, but the wish granters reminded us that it was about Tommy and his experience and what he’s been through,” she said. “So I told them we’d do it, but then I promised we’d give back later once we got through his treatment.”
Now, more than three years later, Harris is a board member of Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada. On Saturday morning, alongside a healthy and strong Tommy, Harris kept her promise at the 16th Walk for Wishes at Town Square Las Vegas, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South.
The annual fundraiser raises money for future wishes while also celebrating “wish kids” and their families. This year’s Walk for Wishes drew more than 3,000 participants, including Criss Angel, a fierce supporter of the foundation for many years.
During the opening ceremony, Angel surprised the crowd with a donation of $100,000.
“Considering that one child every two minutes is diagnosed with cancer, we need to band together to do something about it, whether you’re white, black or brown,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This can touch your children and your children’s children.”
While the magician spoke into the mic Saturday morning, a blue, orange-bellied seahorse peeked out from under his half-zipped sweater. The seahorse on the front of his shirt was drawn by Avery Driscoll, who died in June 2016 after battling cancer.
On Saturday, Avery’s mother, 44-year-old Stephanie Driscoll, walked among other “angel moms” also wearing her daughter’s design. Driscoll said she has stayed active with the foundation “to keep Avery’s memory alive.”
“Make-A-Wish is the fun part of cancer and life-threatening illnesses,” she said. “It’s a good and positive thing that brings joy. I’ve seen what it can do, and I want to pass that along to other families.”
By 9:30 a.m., most participants had crossed the finish line in the parking lot of Town Square. Several hundred feet away, Tommy and his best friend, Alexander Fischer, cut through a patch of grass. The two were chasing balloons tied to their hands that read “Take a walk on the wish side.”
More on Make-A-Wish
More than 200 kids in Southern Nevada are waiting for their wishes to be granted, according to Caroline Ciocca, president of Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada. Visit www.snv.wish.org to learn more.