HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — No one wants to hear that they have cancer. And it’s even harder for a parent to receive the news about one of their children. But that is exactly what happened to the Hahn family of Hedgesville last June when they saw their eight-year-old daughter, Lorelie, deteriorating right in front of their eyes.
“She stopped walking, then she stopped even getting up at all for the last couple of days. She didn’t want to eat and we took her to the emergency room, and that’s when they did the X-rays and saw the masses. Then they sent us down to Children’s (Hospital, in Washington, D.C.) immediately after that. It was very scary,” said mother Ashley Hahn.
Multiple trips to Washington and Baltimore confirmed their fears, but also, set a new routine that would last for months. Trips for treatments and then chemotherapy, sometimes staying for six days at a time, all wore the family down. Cancer kills, and they were facing that threat head-on. In addition to the tremendous concerns the family had for their daughter, the costs in time and money were just as difficult.
It seemed their darkest hour.
“We have a lot of people praying for us; family and friends helping. A lot of people from our church would bring meals every week,” Hahn said. Their employers also worked with them to allow time off for medical transportation and care of their daughter.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which provides a wish for children with a serious illness, met with Lorelie. She was allowed to make a wish for anything she wanted. She chose to swim with the dolphins. The Hahn family decided on a date after her chemotherapy would be completely finished in March.
On April 10, Make-A-Wish Foundation sent the entire Hahn family to Florida for a five-day, all-expense-paid vacation.
“I swam with the dolphins, and the dolphins gave me a ride,” Lorelie Hahn said. The family took in the local sights and had a fun break from their worries.
Make-A-Wish Foundation wants the families that they help to have more than just a vacation; they want them to have a once-in-a-lifetime event, and they work hard to make that happen. In West Virginia last year they provided wishes for 135 children and their families. The organization does not have a set of programs or destinations that they offer, but instead, they take the wish that the child asks for and find a way to provide it.
There are no income guidelines that a family must meet. The goal is to provide a wish for the terminally ill child; whatever wish that they may dream up. That can cost a lot of money for the foundation.
“We get funding from private donations; we have people who call us and hold fundraisers for us. In the Eastern Panhandle we have a couple of big events like the UAW-GM, the GM factory out there; they do a big golf tournament every year for us, and that raises enough money for multiple wishes. Our money comes from people that just want to help make the cause possible,” said Leandra Hickman, regional manager for the Northern West Virginia Make – A – Wish Foundation, based in Morgantown.
“We work really hard to raise the money so we never have to put a child on hold, or keep them waiting for their wish,” Hickman said. Make -A-Wish understands that time, for these children, is precious. The Hahn family got the vacation they needed.
Cancer can really change a family, their views, and what they deem as important. For the Hahn’s it’s helping bring awareness to the problems for other children. St. Baldricks Foundation recently chose Lorelie as an honoree child. “It’s a foundation that raises money specifically for children’s cancer,” Hahn said.
It has also changed them in other ways, too. “She is tougher and she appreciates getting to do more normal things now. She never complains about going to school or getting up for school because, I think, she appreciates it more. We met a ton of good people and have had a lot of support, and that really helped,” Hahn said.
For the Hahn family, there was recently even more good news. “She is considered cancer free right now. She has some residual scar tissue where the chemo was,” Hahn said.
For Make – A – Wish Foundation, even through they only work with children with a life-threatening illness, over 80 percent of them go on to live healthy and productive lives.
In the cases where a child and their family lose the battle with their disease, the volunteers and staff at the foundation at least know that they made their client happy. “We really do take solace in knowing that we, hopefully, provided them with something that brought them a happy moment when they really needed it,” Hickman said.
To volunteer or donate to Make – A – Wish Foundation contact Leandra Hickman at 304-292-5600.