Gardnerville’s Price family goes to Florida courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation | RecordCourier.com
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Gardnerville’s Price family goes to Florida courtesy of the Make-a-Wish Foundation

by Linda Hiller, staff Writer

What if, as a child, you had a week of unlimited access to three amusement parks, an ice cream parlor out your back door, favorite candies in every cranny of your hotel room and, best of all, your family shared it all with you?

That is the fantasy that Stevie Price and his Gardnerville family experienced recently, thanks to the Northern Nevada Make-A-Wish Foundation and some local angels.

At 12 years old, Stevie is one of the youngest-ever recipients of a heart transplant. He was near death before the transplant, while his father, John, watched doctors massage Stevie’s heart for hours. Now, more than one year after the operation, the worst is behind them, and that is why the Make-A-Wish Foundation deemed Stevie eligible for a special wish.

“They picked him because of all he went through,” said his mother, Barb. For Stevie, the wish was a trip to Disney World, but it turned out to be much more than that.

“It was the kids’ first airplane ride and they loved it, but we did have some problems,” she said.

After some close calls with the flu, the family – Stevie, Katie, 11, Amy, 1, Barb and John – arrived in Orlando just in time for a night’s sleep to prepare for the marathon of theme parks that awaited them, Barb said. They stayed at a Make-A-Wish cottage complex called Give Kids the World near the theme parks.

“They had everything we needed there, and it was filled with things kids like,” she said. “There were Skittles and M&Ms on the table, sodas in the fridge, shampoo, lotion – they thought of everything. It was so great.”

– Not just one theme park … In addition to a trip to Disney World, as Stevie had requested, the family received tickets to Sea World and Universal Studios. He had to get a medical OK from his transplant specialists before going to the parks, Barb said.

“We were a little worried about the motion rides, but they said it was OK,” she said.

– Front line privileges. At each park, Stevie wore a Make-A-Wish button that allowed the family to go to the front of the lines. At Sea World, they got a behind-the-scenes, after-hours tour which included meeting a killer whale and her two calves, giving them commands just like the trainers do and touching the huge sea mammals.

“That was neat,” Stevie said. “I got to make them wave and they felt kinda rubbery.”

Stevie still has to take many pills and undergo a heart biopsy at Stanford University every three months to make sure his body isn’t rejecting his transplanted heart, Barb said. Last weekend he underwent a biopsy and the results showed no rejection at all. Stevie said when the tube with the biopsy tool goes up a vein to his heart, he can actually feel it when the small piece of tissue is clipped from his heart.

“My heart skips a beat,” he said. “Otherwise, I don’t feel it.”

Stevie is vulnerable to infections and is home schooled, now in 5th grade, soon to be a 6th grader.

Barb said the whole process of getting a wish granted for her son was gratifying.

“They paid for everything – they said it was supposed to be a stress-free vacation, and it was,” she said. “They even paid for John’s time off from work.”

– A grateful family. Stevie said he was happy to speak to the Make-A-Wish group that organized the Shamrock Shindig to send his family to Florida.

“I got to thank them all,” he said. “I didn’t get to tell everyone what a wonderful time we had, but maybe they’ll read this.”

Stevie said the best thing about the trip was being there together as a family, and the worst thing was having to leave and come home.

Barb said the family trip was priceless to her and the rest of the family.

“I’m telling you, if I ever get a lot of money, I’d give it to Make-A-Wish, because they do such a wonderful thing,” she said. “We even had Christmas one night – they got presents every night, and having that ice cream parlor right out of our back patio door was really great. Stevie is up to 91 pounds now.”

Students from Smith Valley High School raised $1,200 from a teacher auction, Barb said. Stevie was able to go and thank those students and teachers for their generosity. The Prices lived in Smith Valley before Stevie got sick.

– About the foundation. The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in 1980 by a mother whose 7-year-old son with terminal leukemia had always wanted to be a policeman. He was granted that wish in Arizona less than one week before he died, and from that experience, the foundation was born.

Since then, more than 73,000 wishes have been granted by 80 Make-A-Wish chapters to children under 18 years old with life-threatening illnesses.

The average value of a wish is around $5,000, with part coming from cash donations and fund-raisers like the Shamrock Shindig that contributed to Stevie’s trip, and the rest coming from in-kind donations by corporations and the organizations that host the children and their families.

The Shamrock Shindig was chaired by Val Viegener and held on St. Patrick’s Day in Genoa. The dinner/dance and silent auction raised $10,000 to send Stevie and his family on their wish trip.

“Val did a portrait of Stevie, auctioned it and then turned around and gave it to Stevie,” Barb said. “It was so nice.”