For Henry, a 17-year-old cancer survivor, the inspiration for his one true wish to give toys to young cancer patients was sparked by another kindhearted gesture.
In June 2018, Henry was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During his hospital stay, the teenager grappled with feelings of fear and anxiety. A nurse gifted him a teddy bear, which turned his anxiety into a glimmer of hope. "For a moment, everything felt alright. Everything felt perfect," Henry said as he recalled cuddling his teddy bear in the hospital.
On the one-year anniversary of the removal of his tumor, Henry returned to Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University. This time, he was on a different mission: to give toys to a group of children – each of whom were going through a similar struggle – and spread those feelings of hope and joy that he appreciated so much.
"I feel like that's the greatest gift: to give," said Henry. "I want to see little kids have that feeling of warmth as they receive a plush toy."
Thanks to our friends at Disney and Disney store, they eagerly donated hundreds of toys to Henry's worthy cause. With an assist from his family and Make-A-Wish® team members, he carefully arranged a full display of toys and plush pals – from Mickey Mouse and Tigger to Minnie Mouse, Pua and Dumbo.
Henry's excitement proved infectious. One by one, the young patients met with Henry for a chat and to pick out a special gift. As smiles enveloped the room, there were touching tears from the children's parents. These intense feelings were not lost on Henry, who had to wipe away some tears as well.
Henry's wishful day of giving also deeply moved one of the state's highest-ranking officials. Gov. Kate Brown sent in a personalized video message, officially recognizing him as an "amazing Oregonian."
"Thank you for your selfless acts of courage," Brown said. "Thank you for putting smiles on other kids' faces. And thank you for your willingness to pay it forward. I applaud your efforts and am really touched by your bravery." After watching the video, Henry was nearly left speechless. "Wow!" he exclaimed.
On a day when his battle with cancer came full circle, Henry was truly aglow from the ripple effect his wish created. Today, he is cancer-free and thriving, and he's continuing to look for ways to make a difference in the community. Perhaps his kindness will inspire someone else to "pay it forward" by creating more life-changing moments for children with critical illnesses.
"Seeing the reaction of the little kids has filled my heart with all of these emotions," said Henry. "I'm so glad I was able to make them smile, even for a little bit. It's unbelievable. I'm so blessed."