Make-A-Wish, Brandon Prust Foundation grant wish of young brain tumour survivor

(From left to right) Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario volunteer wish granter Wayne Harvey, Debbie Pires, Samantha Pires, Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario volunteer wish granter Jen Harvey, former NHL player Brandon Prust and Nelson Pires pose for a group photo following the Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario wish reveal at Covent Garden Market on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Natalie Lovie / 980 CFPL

A pair of local charities is granting the wish of an 11-year-old brain tumour survivor.

Thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Brandon Prust Foundation, Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario is sending Samantha Pires and her family on a cruise in the new year.

Ever since learning about ruins in Mexico in the fourth grade, Samantha has wanted to see them for herself. She’ll get to do just that in February, with her family by her side.

“On cruises, people don’t judge me there, like people don’t ask what my age is. I make friends there. It’s super fun…I can just be a regular, 11-year-old girl and have fun,” said Samantha.

She’s been forced to mature beyond her years since being diagnosed with a brain tumour at age nine. Samantha eventually underwent a surgery to remove the tumour that lasted more than 18 hours.

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Unfortunately, her health struggles did not end there.

“She contracted an infection from the feeding tube that she had during surgery,” said Samantha’s mother, Debbie Pires. “That infection ended up eating through the lining of her nose, her septum and her cartilage so she spent a month on IV drugs at SickKids hospital. She’s undergone 11 procedures on her nose and then she had a surgery just last fall in SickKids.”

READ MORE: London, Ont. teen to be prime minister for the day thanks to Make-A-Wish Canada

The wish announcement was made Monday inside the Covent Garden Market with the help of the Vipers cheerleading squad from London’s Power Cheer Gym, which Debbie felt was a wonderful, personal touch.

“It was pretty special that they had the cheerleaders here. Sam is a competitive dancer,” said Debbie. “After surgery, she was partially paralyzed on the left side of her body, and they told her she would never dance again and that was in August of 2016, and by March of 2017 she was back on the competitive stage so she worked her butt off.”

The Pires family are no strangers to health struggles. Debbie is a 15-year brain tumour survivor, her husband and Samantha’s father Nelson is a cancer survivor and Samatha’s older sister, Jordan, is physically disabled.

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“We just take every challenge one step at a time,” Debbie said.

READ MORE: Brandon Prust is back with the London Knights

Nelson Pires is excited for his daughter to focus on being a kid again.

“She’s been forced to grow up so quickly that I think that something like this, where she can just have fun and not worry about it, and we can all just relax and put our feet up for a little bit and just enjoy ourselves for a while is going to be a great experience,” he said.

After donating to Make-A-Wish last year, former NHL player Brandon Prust was more than happy to do it again through his charity foundation.

Samantha Pires, 11, poses with former NHL player Brandon Prust for a photo taken by Samantha’s father, Nelson, during the Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario wish reveal at Covent Garden Market on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Samantha was granted her wish to go on a cruise with her family, thanks to a $10,000 donation to Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario from the Brandon Prust Foundation. Natalie Lovie / 980 CFPL

“This is what we strive for, helping children out and helping kids in need, and they’re going through a tough time,” said Prust. “We helped out with donating to Make-A-Wish last year and we had a lot of fun with it, and we were happy to come back and hopefully we can do it every year.”

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Before the year is done, Make-A-Wish Southwestern Ontario plans to grant 95 wishes. Since the chapter’s inception in 1986, it has granted over 1,400 wishes in 16 counties across Southwestern Ontario.

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