Hollis’ Idea of #mostbestdays – Hawaii
Hollis had 3 simple requests from the girls at Make-A-Wish: a pool, a ho-tail (hotel) and hamburgers….and boy, did they step up and then some. Talk about rolling out the red carpet for H Town. There were so many wonderful, thoughtful and memorable moments on this trip, it would be rather difficult to capture it all in this update. However, there are a few we can most definitely share. On the morning of May 24th, we were picked up in a stretch limo and taken to the American Airlines check in at Sky Harbor Int’l Airport only to be greeted by some amazing American Airlines associates, our favorite Make-A-Wish team, as well as a surprise visit from JJ Putz and Willie Bloomquist from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Upon checking in, the area was decorated in a Hawaiian theme which really peaked Hollis’ interest. We headed off to the Admirals Club in the A terminal, where we huddled into the conference room for a quick beverage known as the “Toothless Shark”, an early morning blend of grenadine, lime juice and orange juice…..later in the day, Rhett said he wanted another one of those Sharkless Tooth drinks! We also had to thank our close friend, Todd Martin, President – Golf Division at Peter Millar Clothing (a dear friend of our family) for coordinating so much with AA as well. Then all heck broke loose in the club when D. Baxter, the Bobcat from our hometown Arizona Diamondbacks showed up and to no objection by Hollis or Rhett, the 3 of them went wild, throwing a football around, read newspapers on the floor, messed with some business travelers, etc. Just about the time they were going to get thrown out, it was time to get to the gate. Upon arrival at gate A30, we were greeted by more AA employees who had decorated the entire gate check area including a HOLLIS sign! The lead attendant announced us as a Make A Wish Arizona family and we humbly received a huge applause by everyone in the surrounding gates. It was a humbling moment, to say the least. Then, we were greeted by a local Hawaiian family, who performed one of their native hula dances in front of the entire terminal! After hugs and pictures we taken, Rhett and Hollis were whisked away down the jet bridge, which was completely wallpapered in Hawaiian images and items. They got to meet the captains, the flight crew, even sit in the cockpit!!!! Then it was time to have a seat (Shawnee and Hollis were upgraded to 1st Class) and away we went to Honolulu! What a sendoff…
6 hours later we landed in Honolulu and were also greeted by more than 30 women and children hula dancing in our family’s honor, receiving lei after lei by many of the children. It was a most gracious welcome by the people of Hawaii, reminding me how beautiful and cherished the culture is. Then, it was off to Disney’s Aulani Resort where we would spend the next 5 days immersed in some of the #mostbestdays.
The boys swam their butts off like there was no tomorrow and they definitely paid for it at the end of each day….they’re 7 and 9, what would you expect? We had many memorable moments including a private meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, a private “Hamburger on the Beach” catered specifically for Hollis. Despite the rain, they gave us the best table and put sand around the base of it just to follow through on Hollis’ wish! The views were amazing, the sunset was breath taking and when Shawnee and I looked over to get Hollis’ reaction, his head was down, his eyes were droopy and he could merely polish off only half of his burger! HA!
When we consider how God moves through these experiences, HE showed us purpose while at Aulani. When the boys were swimming, Shawnee and I noticed another boy in the pool that from behind, looked exactly like Hollis. When we went to locate his family, Rhett was already speaking to his mom, asking him why he was in a wheelchair. And before I could have a word with Rhett and apologize to the boys mom, I met Mason and just knew. Mason had buzzed hair, chubby cheeks and delicate speech, just like Hollis. We had just met another boy who had DIPG, who were on a Make A Wish trip from Geneva, Illinois. Once we shared our story, the first thing I could do was embrace Trish, Mason’s mom and it was a very emotional moment and connection; to know that in the midst of Disney’s resort, our two families united and it was powerful. I had the chance to kneel down and hold Mason’s arm and speak with him, one on one. It was a very special yet difficult moment because even though Mason had only been diagnosed 3 weeks before Hollis, his symptoms (not by much) were a little more visible. But Mr. Mason was Sharp! When I got close to his face, he said to me ” You know what Mr. Shane? I have my own billboard back in Geneva!” and by golly, come to find out, he has TWO!!!! I was so grateful that both Shawnee and I got to meet Mason and his family (2 brothers and dad)……we could have talked for days had it not been for Mason being so hungry! We could relate to that, especially with Hollis.
The following day we were honored to spend the entire morning and afternoon at Pearl Harbor. Both boys are history buffs so it was amazing. We had a private tour with Ms. Edean with the Pacific Historic Parks. She helped bring the events that took place on December 7, 1941 to life for us through the incredible stories and history behind the attack on Pearl Harbor; an enriching and patriotic experience that the four of us will never forget. It included segments in the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center’s two museums, outdoor displays, the Pearl Harbor Survivor segments on board the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pearl Harbor shoreline Path of Attack tour, and so much more. We were so grateful to Ms. Edean so when we parted ways, she dropped us off in front of the Battleship Missouri, to be met by Ms. Sandi. She went on to tell us many amazing stories about the Missouri, the last of the mighty battleships ever constructed by the United States. Our family enjoyed stories of adventure, war, victory, and the road to peace in the Pacific told in detail by Sandi on the decks of the Battleship Missouri, which also served in the Korean War, Vietnam War and in the Middle East conflicts.
As the end of the trip was in sight, we were thoroughly blessed by being met by some very dear friends and families. It just so happened that the LaVallee Family from Phoenix, AZ, whom we attend Living Streams Church with, were beginning their Aulani trip as ours was ending but we were able to spend a few quality days with them at the pool and on the beach. It was fun to watch Rhett and Hollis play with Elyse and Lawson! Then, one of my favorite families, the Kamana family, made some time to come over to Aulani to visit and hang out. Carter Kamana and I used to work together at Avendra back in 2002 to 2009. Every time I would come to Hawaii for work, I would spend time with him, his wife Heidi and their four beautiful kids Lia, Timmy, Noah and Carter Jr. Lia and Tim were back in Wyoming but the younger boys Noa (junior) and Carter (8th grade) were able to hold court and swim with Rhett and Hollis, which was a blessing. We were able to enjoy an afternoon and dinner with them. Lastly, and one of the main reasons why we nudged Make A Wish Arizona for Oahu was so that we could see Shawnee’s Ohana, her 1st cousins and relatives Jeff and Kelly De Asis and Michelle and Shawn Miyata and each of their 4 kids! Rhett and Hollis were so thrilled to know that they have loving, caring, nurturing 2nd cousins in Hawaii who really embraced them with open arms being it was the first time any of them had really ever met! Part of Hawaiian culture, Ohana means family. Our families are bound together and are called not to forget each other. It was important to us parents to communicate that to all of the children. When the Miyatas’, the De Asis’ and the Dohertys’ got together for the first time collectively, I quickly realized that the word Ohana would become an important part of our everyday life. You see, in a short period of time, Michelle and Jeff, their spouses and kids enabled me to understand how aloha is THE essential element in their Ohana; one that is loving and caring for each other, the glue that holds their families tightly together. To Shawnee and I, what we experienced was much more than being just the “extended family from the mainland”; it was an understanding that aloha (love, affection, compassion and caring) is an essential commitment to do everything as a family. Ke Akua pu a hui hou.
Wishes don’t just happen on their own. Make-A-Wish Arizona was only able to create a life-changing wish experience with help from a dedicated staff, volunteers, donors and supporters. Dana, Torrie, Katie and a host of others were the ones who provided the means to grant Hollis his wish. They created an unforgettable experience driven by Hollis’ creativity. They did an amazing job personalizing his vision; a wish experience that was indeed a game changer and matched Hollis’ idea of #mostbestdays. We cannot be more thankful.
Next stop……..Cologne, Germany.