AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's been one year since Ethan Hobbs' dream came true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since then, six-year-old Ethan, diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, has completed the last of his chemo and radiation treatments, and is now on a check-up-every-four-months schedule.
Yet his family remains involved with Make-A-Wish. Judy Hobbs, Ethan's mother, was the featured speaker at the kick-off banquet for the Make-A-Wish Stories of Light campaign Monday night at the Cotton Patch in Augusta.
At left, Dr. Roger Bega (from left) with his patients and Wish recipients Easton Knowles,5, and Ethan Hobbs, 6, at the Cotton Patch in Augusta. "When they come see me, these little guys think they own the place. They run all over the clinic playing, and I have to chase them down to give them their treatments. People passing by think we are crazy, but we are just making it fun," Dr. Bega said.
Photo by Lynn Davidson/Special
"She's doing a lot of speaking for us ... she's passionate about Make-A-Wish, so she's good to have when we want people to take notice of us," said Elizabeth Morris, development officer for Make-A-Wish of Georgia and Alabama.
Approximately 50 people, including corporate sponsors, advisory committees, volunteers, Lynx hockey players, and "Wish children"›with their families, listened as Mrs. Hobbs told the story of her family's battle with cancer. After tearfully describing the day when Ethan was diagnosed with cancer, followed by weekly chemo treatments, daily radiation treatments, and surgeries, Mrs. Hobbs described the impact on the entire family.
"Our children all learned that sometimes a child can get really sick without getting better. Suddenly our lives revolved around appointments, scans, and lab work. There were many times that we had to take the time to do these things rather than attend other events that we wanted to. Make-A-Wish included everybody in Ethan's wish, just like we were all included in the diagnosis," Mrs. Hobbs said.
Ethan's wish was to become a real GI Joe, so "our family experienced military life VIP-style," Mrs. Hobbs said. "We just thought he would get to spend a day at Fort Gordon, we never dreamed he would experience so much."
Ethan, his parents, his brother Ben, 12, brother Jordan, 10, and his sister, Elizabeth, 5, experienced boot camp, Ranger training, and Airborne school at Fort Benning in Columbus. The next day, they drove Humvee and tank simulators at Fort Stuart, Savannah. The third day, they trained with the MP K-9 unit at Fort Gordon in Augusta.
Although his older brother, Ben, liked driving in the simulators the best, Ethan said Fort Gordon was his favorite part of their military career. "I liked running with the puppies," he said. Mrs. Hobbs explained that they watched the K-9's train on the obstacle course, and "Ethan got out there and ran along with them."
At right, Easton hugs Louie the Augusta Lynx hockey team mascot.
Photo by Kevin Martin/Morris News Service
"For one week, we didn't think about treatments, pain, or fear. For one week we had the absolute time of our lives. We still talk about it almost every day," Mrs. Hobbs said in her speech.
Ethan's oncologist, Dr. Roger Bega, also attended the banquet at the Cotton Patch. Dr. Bega said he noticed a change in the family after the wish-come-true experience.
"Was Ethan different after that -- not only the kid was different, the whole family was different! The Make-A-Wish foundation makes our job easier. We should have special sessions after they return because they have so much to share," Dr. Bega said.
Dr. Bega said he has been an oncologist at the Medical College of Georgia for 25 years, and has had "hundreds of patients getting their wishes (through Make-A-Wish), and "every time they come back, it's a new beginning for them."
Dr. Bega added that the medical staff is always involved with the planning of the wishes, "because some children have limitations because of their condition, and the safety of the child is always the number one priority."
Mrs. Morris said each wish has a coordinator and two volunteers, and costs $5,000. The goal this year for the Augusta area Make-A-Wish campaign is $50,000, or 10 wishes.
The week-long campaign includes hows from 8:30-9 a.m. daily on WGAC (580 AM/93.1 FM). According to Mrs. Morris, enough money had been raised by Monday evening for five wishes.
Mrs. Hobbs summarized the importance of these funds in the conclusion of her speech. "What strikes me most is the reality. Our treatment lasted only one year, but for other families, the one year turns into three, or longer, or worse. Ethan has finished his last treatment, but now there are new families out there just beginning -- new families hearing the diagnosis and juggling the appointments, new parents and grandparents with worry in their eyes, new little faces swollen with medication and with scared expressions. They can all use the magic of a wish."
To make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia and Alabama, or to read more Stories of Light, visit the website at www.wishatlanta.org/sol/augusta.