Update: News 19’s Make A Wish Telethon scheduled for June 16 has been moved to June 23. The article has been updated to reflect that schedule change.
FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – 288 children in Alabama are waiting for their wishes to be granted by Make-A-Wish. Luke Reaves is one of 89 in North Alabama, and his wish is for a trip to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Luke likes to do a lot of things, like play the piano, read and draw, but when the pandemic started, he discovered a new passion.
“[During the pandemic] we were home a lot more. We’ve always liked to be outside. In the evening, Jason likes to make a fire, we roast marshmallows, and it got to where we just started looking at the stars, noticing the constellations, looking them up more and seeing where they were every night,” Luke’s mom Emily said.
At this point, Luke might know more about space than any other 9-year-old in our solar system. At the Lowell Observatory, Luke said he would be most excited to seek out some dwarf planets using their giant telescope.
“The Kuiper belt is telling where the dwarf planets are,” Luke explained.
He has space-themed puzzles and binge watches space television shows with his dad, Jason. This is the way they spent many of their days during the start of the pandemic.
Then, last spring, Emily and Jason noticed something was off with Luke.
“In April 2021, He started to become sick, have a lot of different issues and we finally nailed it down with his doctors at Vanderbilt and received that diagnosis of the lymphoma,” Emily said.
Jason and Emily said they knew this was a possibility after Luke’s heart transplant. He received a new heart at just 18 months old, after going into heart failure, caused by a rare condition he was born with.
“Recovery had been great. We’ve been able to live a very normal life, going to school, going to church, doing things around town,” Emily said.
When Luke got sick in 2021, doctors jumped into action.
“Thankfully his was very treatable. He was hospitalized for a few days initially and went through 6 weeks of infusions. During that few weeks receiving his care for that is when we were asked if we would be interested in giving him a trip with Make-A-Wish,” Emily said. “At first it was hard to see down the road, thinking can we enjoy this trip?”
After six weeks of successful infusions though, the family decided to move forward with his wish to go to Flagstaff.
“He’s been to the hospital multiple times and he does such a good job and we appreciate it,” Jason said. “We really felt like he deserved this opportunity to have a little escape, have a little fun. He is a wonderful little boy and a great patient when it comes to procedures and doctor’s visits.”
They did research and learned the West has one of the clearest views of outer space.
“I just want to see the Observatory. It probably has a big telescope!” Luke said.
Emily and Jason said more than the experience, they just want to see how excited Luke is when he gets there, and are looking forward to making more memories as a family.
“It helps open a door that we couldn’t for him to give him an escape,” Emily said. “We try not to take a moment for granted, and that’s our life experience to see Luke go through a lot of the situations that could have ended much differently, so don’t take a moment for granted.”
News 19 is hosting a Telethon with Make-A-Wish on June 23rd. If you’d like to donate before then, text “WISHES” to 243-725.