Riley Zimmer was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma at 13 years old. But in his time of darkness, he was offered a light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Two years later, he’s hoping to generate support for the charity that helped him stay strong.
“At the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Riley underwent chemotherapy and a couple of surgeries,” said Tina Zimmer, Riley’s mom. “Then during our stay, a social worker identified that Riley would qualify for Make-A-Wish.”
Offering a sense of hope amidst his ongoing battle with cancer, the Make-A-Wish Foundation worked with Riley to make his biggest dream come true: A flight to Chicago, where he got to meet and practise with his favourite hockey team—the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I was just in awe,” Riley said.
“I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time and it’s probably the best experience I’ll ever have.”
Riley was also able to watch the Blackhawks play on home ice with his family by his side.
“This was something we could come together as a family and just be in the moment and forget about all of the worries and just experience life together,” Riley’s mother said.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, which was first established in 1980, has eight regional chapters in Canada, including in southern Alberta.
The organization has worked with communities to raise money and bring joy to almost half a million children, just like Riley, who are fighting critical illnesses.
“Make-A-Wish Foundation is for any kid going through any medical condition,” Zimmer said. “Our whole experience with them was absolutely amazing.”
Riley added the experience gave him a sense of hope to keep fighting, even when he didn’t feel like it.
“It made me feel really good and even though I was tired some days, it just made me keep on wanting to go and go and go.”
Crediting the foundation as a key component to Riley’s recovery, the Zimmer family hopes to raise awareness of the charity within their community.
The family is participating in a fundraiser taking place in Lethbridge on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
During the Rope for Hope event, Riley himself will repel down one of the tallest buildings in the city. It’s in an effort to raise money for the organization he says gave him one of the best moments of his life, while battling some of the hardest times.