When genetic testing done on Kayle at the age of 1 revealed an anomaly, Melissa was determined not to let anything hold him back. The tests had revealed that Kayle, affectionately called Moto, was battling approximately 30 different conditions simultaneously—one so rare that there are only 750 cases worldwide. The condition would cause tumors to grow throughout Kayle’s body for the rest of his life, as there is no cure. Since then, Kayle has been sedated over 60 times, endured a feeding tube for eight years, and underwent brain surgery at just 3 years old. Through it all, Kayle, Melissa, and the entire family have shown immense strength, turning their battle into an opportunity to help others after being inspired by their wish come true.
Melissa had first heard about Make-A-Wish Hawaii while running on our behalf at the Hapalua half marathon in April 2014. At the time, Kayle was in isolation at the hospital. She had left in the morning to run the race, raised funds for a cause that she could relate to as the parent of a child with a critical illness, and then returned to Kayle’s side.
Afterward, she contacted us directly to see how she could get more involved. “I wasn’t thinking about receiving a wish,” says Melissa. But when she talked about her motivations for volunteering, Make-A-Wish Hawaii Director of Mission Delivery and wish mom herself Kari Bogner told Melissa she thought Kayle might be eligible.
Melissa began working with wish granting volunteers to plan a life-changing wish for Kayle. Although he couldn’t verbally communicate his wish, Kayle’s love for Disney’s “Finding Nemo” was evident. Melissa knew a wish come true for Kayle would be to swim like Nemo and see his favorite characters in person. Soon, the family traded the hospital for a Nemo-themed room at Walt Disney World®.
“The most memorable moment was being able to share it with both my sons and to see them interact and have so much happiness in their eyes,” she says. “It meant the world for Kayle to have those moments with his brother outside of the hospital.”
Kayle’s Nemo-themed wish come true marked a significant milestone in the type of life Melissa had envisioned for her son ever since his early diagnosis—a life full of adventure and love. “I believe in seizing every opportunity in life and not holding him back from any adventure,” she says. “Kayle is an active surfer, swimmer, athlete, traveler and an inspiration. Our amazing son brings love into every person’s heart that he crosses paths with.”
Inspired by Kayle’s wish, Melissa endeavored to extend that same hope and strength to other families fighting similar battles.
“It’s an incredibly challenging, heartbreaking journey to go through when you have an ill child, [especially] in the beginning not knowing the resources or how to navigate the system of care,” she explains. “To be present for families just beginning the journey and letting them know there is support through those of us who have gone through it, is life-altering. [It is] so important to have an empathetic ear who truly understands the heartache we face.”
It goes without saying that Melissa believes in giving back and paying—or in her case, wishing—it forward. She says Make-A-Wish Hawaii has become part of her family, and she has become just as much a part of ours.
Says Melissa, “I support Make-A-Wish Hawaii because of their tireless efforts to positively impact children during the most challenging times of their lives. A wish is an unforgettable, life-altering moment in a family’s journey filled with love, happiness, laughter and gratitude for everyone involved. The Make-A-Wish Hawaii team, families, and volunteers become part of your Ohana forever.”
Melissa’s family will be recognized as our Wish Family of the Year at our upcoming WISH! A Night in Old Havana gala, taking place on August 29 at the Sheraton Waikiki. To learn more about how you can make a difference like Melissa, click here.