‘Your wish will be granted’
Cali O’Hare photos Big Piney resident Kaycen Kolsen grins as he realizes his wish to go to Walt Disney World will be granted thanks to Make-A-Wish Wyoming. Instead of the La Cabaña Mexican Restaurant menu, Kaycen was handed a folder confirming the announcement and his upcoming flight at the start of lunch on Saturday, May 20.
BIG PINEY — Three years after a series of tumors in his brain and spine threatened to paralyze him, 9-year-old Kaycen Kolsen, his brothers Westyn and Rylie and their friends pull up on bicycles outside of La Cabaña Mexican Restaurant at 120 Budd Ave., in Big Piney. The restaurant is a favorite of Kaycen’s family, having hosted fundraisers to offset his medical expenses over the years — while serving up delectable Mexican fare.
The inside looks different this time. Between the paintings of tropical birds and traditional decor are blue balloons and a colorful two-tier cake featuring Disney characters at the head of several tables pulled together to accommodate Kacyen’s blended family.
His dad Josh Kolsen arrives from Idaho with his Kaycen’s grandfather, Terrell. Kaycen’s mom Kaysha Sellers and his stepdad Joe Smith welcome them and the rest of the guests warmly as the group is seated.
Instead of a menu, Kaycen is handed a manila folder. His family leans in as he opens it; his bright blue eyes light up as they scan the page from beneath his black ball cap. He flips the paper around revealing the words “Kaycen, your wish to go to Disney World will be granted!”
Thanks to Make-A-Wish Wyoming and its volunteers and supporters, Kaycen and his family will travel to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., from June 10 through June 16.
They’ll stay at a kids-oriented resort with an accessible pool near the parks and receive a rental car to travel around. The kids were each given a gift card to purchase souvenirs during their stay, along with gift bags filled with goodies to help build the excitement. Kaycen was handed a paper-link chain to help him count down the days. The family also received commemorative mouse ears — which they all put on within seconds — and an expense card to cover the costs associated with the wish including meals, parking and luggage.
Their pre-flight hotel, rental vehicle and attraction tickets are all arranged and pre-paid by Make-A-Wish Wyoming, meaning the family can focus on they fun they’re going to have and the memories they’ll make together rather than any travel-related or financial stress.
Sublette County resident Karyn Dennis Smith made and donated the cake for Kaycen’s Make-A-Wish reveal and bon voyage party.
“It makes me emotional. In small-town life, who would have ever thought something like this could happen,” a teary-eyed Kaysha said, gesturing toward the Make-A-Wish balloons and banners hanging around the restaurant.
Wishes for children aged 2 years to 17 years old with life-threatening conditions are granted all the time in Wyoming thanks to volunteers like Amy Kelly, standing at the edge of the table with her hands clasped and tears in her own eyes.
Kelly has volunteered with Make-A-Wish Wyoming, helping grant wishes of all kinds for more than 20 years and says it’s “still hard not to cry.”
When Kaycen was 6 and with complaints of back pain, he was taken to a physician who determined he had scoliosis, with a 28-percent curve near the bottom of his spine and 18-percent curve near the top. An MRI at Primary Children’s Hospital revealed three tumors, “two in the brain and one in the spinal cord” Kaysha explained.
Kaycen underwent surgery to remove the tumor from his spinal cord but doctors were only able to “get 60 percent of it before he started to lose sensation and would have become paralyzed.”
A child must be diagnosed with a critical illness, progressive, degenerative or malignant condition to be eligible for a wish.
Make-A-Wish accepts referrals from medical professionals such as doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, social workers or child-life specialists, parents or legal guardians, family members with detailed knowledge of the child’s current medical condition and, of course, the children who are being treated for a critical illness.
Every 20 minutes a child is diagnosed with a critical illness, according to Make-A-Wish. On its website, the nonprofit organization states that 15 wishes will be granted today because of donations.
“Time, money, donations, volunteering, fundraisers … it’s worth it. If you know a child who may be eligible, refer them.” Kelly said, when asked how people can help support Make-A-Wish Wyoming.
For more information about how you can help those kiddos make lasting memories with their loved ones or to refer a child, visit https://wish.org/wyoming.
**Editor’s note: Children whose wishes are granted through Make-A-Wish can choose to remain confidential and celebrate in private. Thank you to Kaycen and his parents for giving us consent to share his story with the public.