WATERTOWN — Besides seeing his dad, 4-year-old Christian Hardy of Fort Drum is most excited to see Mickey Mouse next month.
Diagnosed with leukemia on Oct. 13, 2018, Christian told volunteers with the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Central New York chapter that his wish was to go to Disney so he could hug Mickey Mouse.
A little past 7 p.m. on Wednesday night, his wish was granted.
In between Jefferson Community College men’s and women’s basketball games, during JCC’s first Military Appreciation Night, which fell in the middle of a week’s worth of activities recognizing veterans, those gathered in the college’s McVean Gymnasium were included in this special event following a rendition of the National Anthem by the 10th Mountain Band.
Described by those close to him as a happy boy who loves Disney and sports, Christian had absolutely no idea what was coming when he sat down to watch the men’s basketball team warm up.
Later, as he walked onto the court with his mother and older brother, Timothy Hardy III, he joined Make-A-Wish CNY volunteers Brenda Schultes and Chelsea Nohle as they, along with the JCC men’s basketball team, gave him the surprise of his young life.
“Tonight, in honor of Military Appreciation Night, we have the honor of being joined by a local wish kid and his family who is also a very active part of our military community and is stationed at Fort Drum,” Mrs. Nohle said. “Please give a hearty round of applause as the Hardy family joins us.”
After her announcement setting up the surprise, the team announced to Christian where he would be traveling next month — Disney.
He also was presented with balloons — one of which was a Mickey Mouse head — a cake surrounded by Mickey cupcakes, a signed basketball from the basketball team, and a little jersey with his last name and the number 5 on the back in honor of his upcoming birthday.
Serving 15 counties around upstate and Central New York, including Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence, Make-A-Wish CNY is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to granting wishes for children with critical illnesses.
According to Make-A-Wish CNY, 42 percent of wishes granted to children are Disney-related, like Christian’s, with the organization granting 74 wishes during the 2018 fiscal year.
Though he unfortunately couldn’t be there in person to watch his son’s wish be granted, Army Infantryman Timothy Hardy Jr. didn’t miss out on the surprise. To make sure he could still be a part of the special moment, cameras were set up ahead of time and live-streamed the whole event to him in Georgia, where he is stationed for training.
“Christian, we want you to wave into that camera over there and say hi to Dad,” Mrs. Nohle said.
Mrs. Schultes said the experience of being involved with the granting of wishes is wonderful, though many who are receiving their wishes are left speechless like Christian.
“You have this sense of being almost a fairy godmother for these children,” she said. “To see their faces, it’s amazing to see how happy they are.”
Next month is shaping up to be a busy one for the young Mickey fan, with his father returning right before his birthday on Dec. 7, and his Disney trip taking place from the 11th until the 17th — not to mention Christmas shortly thereafter.
“We greatly appreciate Make-A-Wish for granting his wish because the children, basically all they know is medication and doctors’ visits, so for them to get them outside of what has become their normal lives and have fun is amazing,” Mrs. Hardy said.