Eagle Valley’s Wish Week will help make a local boy’s wish come true
Rehan Fernandez is recovering from a rare form of eye cancer
GYPSUM — A tumor in the right eye of 4-year old Rehan Fernandez did not obscure the vision of his wish.
The young cancer survivor wants to go to Universal Studios theme park in Florida. Eagle Valley High School students are working with Make-A-Wish Colorado to make Rehan’s wish come true.
“Our goal is to be involved in something bigger than ourselves. All the student organizations are involved. This is something we love to do,” said Amy Macias, a student at the high school.
Hundreds of loud, enthusiastic students kicked off their school’s Wish Week Thursday morning. EVHS students had raised $7,000 by Thursday, which will make one wish come true. Their goal is to grant three wishes — the same as your fairy godmother or the genie in the lamp. That’ll cost $21,000 and they have a week to raise it. Last year they raised $20,000, according to Greg Doan, the school’s principal.
Sarah Murphy, a communications manager for Make-A-Wish Colorado, said wishes cost an average of $7,500,
“What these high school students can do for these kids is incredible,” Murphy said.
Colorado Make A Wish high school programs raise more money than any other state, Murphy said. They work with 175 student groups that raised $1.2 million last year.
“We’re proud of that. All that money grants Colorado wishes,” Murphy said.
Eagle Valley students have taken on these causes before. Two years ago an Eagle Valley student’s sister had leukemia, Macias said.
First Followers and fundraising
Students do most of the heavy lifting and fundraising, but people do the dandiest things for love. Take Eagle Valley High School’s staff, for instance.
Teachers and staffers are what are called “First Followers.” Faculty and staff offer themselves to the highest bidders, to do things like have their heads shaved, or get a pie in the face, or get a tattoo, or have their hair dyed blue or frosted and spiked with blue tips.
English teacher Kristina Aden offered to take a pie in the face, but said her students will still have to read “Great Expectations.”
Social studies teacher Doug Little doffed off his cap, displayed his bald spot and offered to cut his hair into the world’s “most embarrassing blue mohawk.”
Spanish teacher Barbara Navarro said she’d dye her hair blue for two weeks. She made her offer in Spanish.
Wrestling coach Ron Beard will be positively resplendent with his hair spiked and dyed blue. Rehan’s plight strikes a personal chord for Beard, whose brother was diagnosed with cancer and died three months later.
When physical education teacher Kylan Kottenstette’s son was born, doctors could not guarantee the boy would live longer than five days.
“I understand how precious life is,” Kottenstette told the hundreds of Eagle Valley students assembled to kick off Wish Week.
“The wishes are not the important thing, hope is … hope that they’ll get their treatment,” Macias told Thursday morning’s assembly.
At the end of Thursday’s kickoff assembly, students rushed to the middle of the gym floor to drop money into large plastic bins. Rehan smacked a piñata with a lacrosse stuck. When it broke — with a little help from an EVHS student — money poured out. When it was all gathered, Little had to crunch down the cash to make it fit in the bins — a good problem for a fundraiser to have.
Rehan and retinoblastoma
Meanwhile, as hundreds of Eagle Valley students and staffers launched Wish Week, Rehan bounced around like the boy he is, playing soccer with balloons and smiling like he has his decades in front of him. He’s healthy, and will hopefully stay that way.
Rehan is recovering from retinoblastoma. The Mayo Clinic says it’s an eye cancer that begins in the retina — the sensitive lining on the inside of your eye.
Retinoblastoma most commonly affects young children but can occur in adults.
Rehan’s was in his right eye and it landed him in Children’s Hospital in Denver, his mother, Isabel, said.
“He’s fine,” Isabel said. “He has lots of checkups to make sure the chemotherapy worked and to make sure it isn’t coming back.”
So far, so good.
The Children’s Hospital folks connected his family with Make-A-Wish Colorado, who is helping arrange Rehan’s wish trip to Universal Studios in Florida.
To be eligible, kids between the ages of 2 and 18 must be suffering from a critical illness. The kids then meet with Make-A-Wish staffers who help them decide what their wish might be.
Make-A-Wish Colorado has granted more than 5,500 wishes since it launched in 1983. It’s one of 62 chapters in the United States and 40 international affiliates serving 50 countries.
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Eagle County Schools has released a draft document detailing how the school district intends to return in-person and hybrid instruction starting Aug. 18.