For a 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy with leukemia, almost every dream imaginable is becoming reality thanks to a number of good Samaritans from Utah and the East Coast.
Shannon Warner and his family are in Utah this week to ride in a hot air balloon, ride in a helicopter, ride horses, go fishing and just experience the great outdoors with adoptive grandparents Tom and Lois Proctor of Orem.Shannon's wish to come to Utah was granted by the Dreams Come True Foundation after the young boy's health continued to deteriorate. He has suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia for 21/2 years.
Doctors say Shannon has a 25 percent chance of regaining his total strength after a bone marrow transplant, but another relapse could narrow his chances to practically nothing, according to his mother, Lois Warner. The boy has already had two relapses.
The story may sound glum for Shannon, but that isn't stopping him from having fun during his six-day stint in Utah. The balloon ride was "like you're just floating in the air," he said.
Shannon, his father Artemas and 15-year-old brother Shane rode in the Stars and Stripes balloon Thursday morning with pilot Curt Bramble.
"We're just are trying to help his wish come true," Bramble said. Bramble and Jeff Alexander, owners of the balloon, offered to donate the flight time when Tom Proctor contacted them.
Proctor, a retired policeman now working as a private investigator, arranged full days of activities for the Warner family hoping to show them as much of Utah as possible. Plans also included riding in an Army tank at Camp Williams and a fire engine and police car in Orem.
The Warner family, from Bath, Pa., took their first plane ride to Utah to stay with the Proctors.
Rick Warner Chevrolet (no relation to the Warners) also got in on the action by loaning the two families a van to use during their stay.
The families met a year and a half ago at Disney World in Florida and have corresponded ever since.
"Shannon and I saw each other and fell in love," Tom Proctor said. "He's really a neat kid. I'm trying to downplay it because I get all shook up."
Proctor said he saw Shannon crying when he was leaving Disney World and wanted to do something to help him. Since that day the Proctors have gone out of their way to do things for the boy and his family.
"They don't have much money. We just wanted them to come out and have a good time," he said.
So far the Warners have raised $25,000 toward the $250,000 needed for Shannon's operation. At least $100,000 must be raised before doctors at St. Christopher's Children's Hospital in Philadelphia can do the transplant.
"After 21/2 years you get used to it (Shannon's illness) and it becomes a part of daily life, but it's not easy being the mother. I'd rather go through it than have him suffer," Lois Warner said.
"I remember as I had my children I was grateful that they were healthy. I never thought I would go through this later on."