Make-A-Wish Oregon, Blue Bunny Ice Cream sponsor recovering cancer patient

Sam Day’s illness isn’t terminal, and his family doesn’t lack the financial means to take a vacation on its own.

That’s why Sam’s mother, Lorna, thought maybe the Make-A-Wish Oregon might have made a mistake. Perhaps they’d want to send another suffering child’s family on a dream trip to Lake Shasta, Calif., or someplace equally special.

Given the size of the send-off party Make-A-Wish and Wells Enterprises Inc., the makers of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, sponsored for the 12-year-old on Sunday, Lorna’s concerns about Sam’s eligibility proved unfounded. Sam, whose long battle with Ewing sarcoma cost him his lower right leg and left-foot toes, was joined on Sunday by more than 60 friends and family at Sunset Presbyterian Church on Northwest Cornell Road. The incoming seventh-grader at the Beaverton Health and Science Option School departs today with his family and several friends on the seven-hour drive to Lake Shasta, one of the family’s favorite getaways.

“Our whole family is going, and we’re bringing some friends with us who have a waterskiing boat,” Lorna said. “One of the reasons why we chose this trip is that Sam likes to do things fast and crazy. He likes to be a boy.”

She and Sam will join Sam’s dad, Bob, older sister Natalie and her friend, Carly, and the Friend family, all neighbors of the Day family in the Terra Linda neighborhood.

Sam’s wish experience began with a Blue Bunny ice cream social, complete with University of Oregon Duck-themed decorations and fun activities, including a bounce house, inflatable slide and words of encouragement from Sam’s neighbors and treatment SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sam Day, 12, celebrates the kickoff to a Make-A-Wish Oregon-sponsored family road trip to Lake Shasta, Calif., by hurtling down an inflatable slide at Sunset Presbyterian Church on Northwest Cornell Road on Sunday afternoon. Blue Bunny Ice Cream and Make-A-Wish Oregon sponsored the celebration.

The Blue Bunny party sponsorship comes courtesy of Wells Enterprises, an ice cream and frozen treat manufacturer based in Iowa. Wells is honoring the company’s 100th birthday by granting wishes to 100 children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Lorna’s misgivings about whether Sam, whose prosthetic lower right leg and foot has little discernible effect on his exuberance and activity level, was a prime candidate for a Make-A-Wish trip cleared up when she talked with folks from the organization.

“It’s not about money” or level of illness, Lorna explained. “It’s the understanding of what we’ve gone through as a family. They want to grant Sam’s wish, not only by paying for it, but by organizing, working through the details and removing all that stress from the family. They do that and send you off to enjoy the event. It’s something (for Sam) to look forward to during his treatments.”

With the help of volunteer “wish granters” throughout the region, the Portland-based Make-A-Wish Oregon coordinates children’s dream trips and special experiences for about 90 children per year with life-threatening conditions.

With his most recent scans coming up clear, Sam is in the best health he’s been in for quite awhile.

“Sam’s doing great. There was no evidence of cancer,” she said. “He’s eating really well. He looks great and feels great. He still gets chemo every third week, but he’s tolerating that fairly well, and he just bounces back.”

In April, Sam joined his Terra Linda Elementary classmates in the third annual “SamRock Run.” Students sought pledges from sponsors and ran laps for a charity of Sam’s choice. This year, he chose the Challenged Athletes’ Foundation to receive his classmates’ pledges. The run has raised more than $30,000 in total for various local and Oregon-based charity organizations.

Based on how Sam got along on his last trip to Lake Shasta on Labor Day weekend 2012, just before he started his chemotherapy treatments, this three-day, four-night trip is likely to be even more action packed for the boy.

“Last year, he had this tumor in his foot and was having a hard time walking around,” Lorna says. “He was being pulled by a ski boat, inner-tubing, swimming and splashing — things that didn’t depend on his foot. Running and agility activities are harder for him now, so just to go fast and crazy with his friends is really good for him now.

“Sam got to choose exactly what he loves to do.”

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