A senior at Hawaii Baptist Academy who excels at biology, Reece plans to become a nurse. Though he’s only 18, he can already explain complex biological concepts with articulate, medical precision. Reece’s intelligence is certainly enough to make him a successful nurse, but even more important is his heart. And his desire to help others as his life’s work stems from his own experience with illness.
As Reece beams about his future and his recent acceptance to Chaminade University Nursing Program, it’s hard to picture him on the other side of the medical equation as a patient. But eight years ago, Reece endured an unthinkable battle with cancer. He was just 10 years old when a routine MRI for his diabetes showed something unusual. The doctors explained to Reece and his family that he had a cancerous brain tumor.
Amid the tiring rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Reece was not feeling himself. A self-described “bright and peppy” kid, Reece suddenly lost his childlike spirit and energy. “I was very gloomy. I didn’t want to talk. I was pretty much depressed because I didn’t believe this was happening to me,” explains Reece.
When a family friend suggested Make-A-Wish, Reece began to feel hopeful again. “When I heard about Make-A-Wish, my whole frame of mind shifted from ‘Oh, I’m sick’ to ‘What can I do? What can I wish for?’” he reflects. He jokes now that one of his initial thoughts was, “’Can I get unlimited ice cream?’”
Eventually, Reece decided on something even better—a trip to Disney World to have fun with his family.
When Reece returned from his wish, something was decidedly different. “The cancer had gotten us all worried, but the wish relieved all the tension in our lives,” explains Reece. “The wish was a lifesaver. Without me having a wish, I don’t think I would be here today like this.”
Inspired by the mission, Reece decided to get involved. He first participated in the Macy’s letter-writing campaign, raising $14,000 for fellow keiki. He also appeared at fundraising events like Jingle Rock Run and gave interviews for local television and news stories.
Reece has been cancer-free for eight years now, but his experiences continue to motivate him in service of others. “Don’t focus on what you have right now,” he advises other wish kids. “Just focus on the future and what you could have.”
Reece's story is featured in our 2017 Annual Report. Read more.